Judiciary Democrats Press Ivanka Trump Brand about Conflicts of Interest
After receiving a vague response to a previous inquiry, House Judiciary Committee Democrats today pressed Ivanka Trump Operations for answers on their business dealings with foreign countries and Ivanka Trump’s involvement with the company. On May 3, 2017, every Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee sent letters to White House Counsel Donald McGahn and to Abigail Klem, president of Ivanka Trump Operations LLC, seeking information about potential conflicts of interest. The Committee received a response from Mrs. Klem on May 17. Describing this response as “somewhat incomplete,” today the members wrote again to Mrs. Klem to request additional information.
Federal law prohibits the participation of any federal employee in any “decision, approval, disapproval, the rendering of advice, . . . or other particular matter” that will affect his or her own financial interests. Although Ivanka Trump resigned from her management role with IT Operations LLC before joining the White House as an advisor to her father, she still stands to benefit financially from the expansion of her brand overseas. Recent reporting suggests that Ms. Trump may have participated in several official meetings with representatives from countries in which her brand seeks to do business.
Today’s letter was signed by every Democratic member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, including: Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Karen Bass (D-CA), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), David Cicilline (D-RI), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Brad Schneider (D-IL).
The May 17th letter from IT Operations is available here.
A copy of today’s letter is here and below.
June 12, 2017
Abigail Klem President
IT Operations LLC
725 Fifth Avenue, 23rd Floor
New York, NY 10022
Dear Ms. Klem,
Thank you for your May 17, 2017 response to our inquiry.
We remain concerned that Ivanka Trump may have used and may continue to use her official position within the White House to benefit her private interests. We hope that you will provide additional clarification on this matter. We also note renewed public scrutiny of the Ivanka Trump brand’s operations abroad. Recent press coverage shows that you filed 14 additional trademark applications with the Chinese government exactly one day before Ms. Trump joined the White House. We write to ask for information about these activities as well.
When Ms. Trump accepted her position at the White House, she became subject to a federal prohibition on participation in any “decision, approval, disapproval, the rendering of advice, . . . or other particular matter” that will affect her own financial interests. She must recuse herself from any official business that may have a direct or predictable effect on the business that still carries her name. Each willful violation of this rule carries with it a penalty of up to five years in prison.
In your letter, you note that Ms. Trump “resigned her positions in our business in January 2017” and that “[t]his arrangement limits her control over the business, restricts the information that can be communicated to Ms. Trump, and requires consultation with an ethics advisor prior to certain actions.” Of course, resigning from day-to-day management of the Ivanka Trump Collection does not diminish Ms. Trump’s private interest in her company, or in any way mitigate her obligations under federal law.
In our initial inquiry, we raised specific concerns about certain trademark applications and licensing agreements pending in overseas markets. You do not seem to dispute that Ms. Trump has a significant financial interest in her company securing agreements like these, or that federal ethics rules bar her from using her official position to influence the outcome of such negotiations.
With respect to recent approval of three pending trademark applications by the Chinese government, however, you state only that Ms. Trump’s brand is similar to its “peer companies” in that it “has sought to protect its international trademarks over the past several years.” You cite to a news article titled Ivanka Trump trademarks raise questions to support the notion that “the approvals were standard.” We find this explanation somewhat incomplete.
Accordingly, with respect to compliance with federal conflict-of-interest rules, we ask that you respond directly to the following questions:
We request your response to these questions no later than June 21, 2017. Thank you again for your prompt attention to this matter.
 Jackie Wattles and Jill Disis, Ivanka Trump’s firm seeks new trademarks in China, reviving ethical concerns, CNN Money, June 5, 2017.
 18 U.S.C. § 208.
 Id. See also 5 C.F.R. § 2635.502.
 18 U.S.C. § 216(b).
 See 5 C.F.R. §§ 2635.401-403; 5 C.F.R. §§ 2635.501-503.
 Neil Connor, Ivanka rump Won China Trademarks as She Dined with President Xi Jinping, Telegraph, Apr. 19, 2017.
 Mark Landler, Trump Invites Rodrigo Duterte to White House, N.Y. Times, Apr. 30, 2017.
 Annie Karni, Ivanka Trump faces tough audience in European Women, Politico, Apr. 25, 2017.
 Michael D. Shear, Unusual Place for a President’s Family on a Foreign Trip: Center Stage, N.Y. Times, May 22, 2017.