Russia investigation may turn to Ivanka Trump as Mueller examines empire

Robert Mueller has issued a subpoena for documents from the Trump Organization, where Ivanka Trump has played a leading role

Ivanka Trump is likely to face new legal scrutiny by Robert Mueller following reports that the special counsel has demanded documents from the Trump Organization, where she served as a senior executive.

Trump, who is married to Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser who was recently stripped of his security clearance, has been described by her father as a “natural-born dealmaker” and was known to have played a leading role in deals between the Trump Organization and a Russian national who has come under scrutiny and bragged about his ties to top Kremlin officials.

Mueller, the former FBI director who is leading an independent criminal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, has issued the Trump Organization with a subpoena for documents in recent weeks, including documents related to Russia, according to a report in the New York Times.

While it is not clear precisely what deal or deals Mueller is examining, Democratic congressional investigators this week claimed in a memo that they had learned that the Trump Organization was “actively negotiating” a deal in Moscow during the election campaign that involved a Russian bank that was under US sanctions. The deal never went through and it is not clear which bank the congressional investigators were referring to.

The president has repeatedly denied having had any business dealings with Russia when he has been asked about it by reporters, and has described the criminal investigation into his campaign as a “witch-hunt”.

Ivanka Trump served as a senior executive at the Trump Organization, with a special focus on acquisitions, before leaving her post to serve her father in the White House last year. By all accounts, including in flattering business profiles of the first daughter, she has been described as an integral part of her father’s empire.

That role has also led to legal trouble in the past.

In 2006, when she was 24 years old, Ivanka Trump and her brother Donald Trump Jr, signed a licensing deal to build the Trump SoHo with two businessmen who would go on to be close business partners of the Trump Organization, Felix Sater and Tevfik Arif. Sater and Arif ran a real estate group called Bayrock and were born in the former Soviet Union.

The SoHo deal is an area of focus for Mueller, according to Bloomberg. Sater, a felon who became an informant against the mafia, did not respond to requests for comment.

Last year, the New York Times published emails that showed the Russian emigre boasting in 2015 that he could arrange a deal for the Trump Organization to open a new property in Moscow with the help of Vladimir Putin. In the emails, Sater recalled how he had arranged for Ivanka Trump to “sit in Putin’s private chair” during a visit to Moscow that they took together in 2006.

The revelation was interesting in part because it showed that Sater had remained in the Trumps’ orbit even after Donald Trump said in a 2013 deposition that he barely knew Sater.

Ivanka Trump has said she was not involved in any discussions about a property deal in Moscow in 2015 – at the time of the presidential election – and has not commented on the claim that she once sat in the Russian president’s chair.

An attorney for the Trump Organization said the company was fully cooperating with Mueller’s subpoena request.

Although the Trump SoHo project was launched with fanfare and was meant to mark Ivanka Trump and her brother Donald Jr’s full entry into their father’s business, it has been heavily scrutinised by prosecutors and the press since it opened in 2010. A report by the New Yorker, ProPublica and WNYC in 2017 alleged that the Trump project was closely investigated by prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office in 2012.

According to the New Yorker account, both Ivanka and Donald Jr were close to being indicted following an investigation into whether the pair misled investors about how well condos in the building were selling. The article alleged that prosecutors had evidence, including emails between the siblings, that showed they were aware they were using inflated figures to lure buyers to purchase condos. The issue also became a subject of a civil lawsuit by investors, which was settled by the Trump Organization.

Neither Ivanka Trump nor Donald Jr were ultimately indicted after the New York district attorney, Cy Vance, decided not to move ahead with the charges, according to the New Yorker account. It also described how, weeks after Vance’s office said it would drop the investigation, a top attorney for the Trump family, Marc Kasowitz, contacted Vance about hosting a fundraiser for the district attorney. The lawyer would later donate over $30,000 to Vance’s campaign.

“We did the right thing,” Vance told the New Yorker, defending his decision to drop the case. Trump SoHo went into foreclosure in 2014 and was taken over by a creditor.

There is no suggestion that Ivanka Trump is under criminal investigation.

A separate report by CNN early this month said that US counterintelligence officials were scrutinising one of Ivanka Trump’s other deals: the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver. Officials who spoke to CNN said that the scrutiny could be a hurdle for Ivanka Trump as she tries to obtain security clearance for her role in the White House. The Vancouver property is one of a few properties that have opened since Trump took office.

Alan Garten, executive vice-president and chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, told CNN that the company’s role in the property was limited to licencing and managing the hotel, but was not involved in financing.


Stephanie Kirchgaessner

The GuardianTramp

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