WASHINGTON – House Judiciary Committee Democrats are pressing the White House and Ivanka Trump’s fashion brand over concerns that the president’s daughter is leveraging her official position to benefit private interests abroad.
As detailed in Monday’s letter to Abigail Klem, president of Ivanka Trump Operations LLC, Ivanka Trump, who serves as an assistant to the president, met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 6 at Mar-a-Lago, the Trump family’s resort in Palm Beach, Fla. That same day, the Chinese government awarded provisional approvals for three pending Trump trademarks.
Democrats first raised the issue on May 3 with letters to White House Counsel Don McGahn and IT Operations. The original letter cited the Jinping meeting, as well as a November 2016 meeting between Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. The lawmakers note the timing of the meeting, which took place when IT Operations was negotiating a licensing agreement with Sanei, a retailer largely owned by the Japanese government.
According to the letters, the Trump Organization has at least 157 pending trademark applications in 36 foreign countries, and Ivanka Trump’s brand has filed 173 trademarks in 21 countries in the past decade. Ivanka’s business has 30 applications under review in China alone, according to the documents.
Monday’s letter, which was signed by the committee’s entire Democratic roster, also raises questions about the timing of 14 trademark applications being filed with the Chinese government the day before Ivanka Trump accepted her role at the White House.
Klem responded to the lawmakers in a May 17 letter of her own, noting that Ivanka Trump resigned from the brand in January 2017 and moved the business into a trust, which limits her access and knowledge. Trump is also required to consult with an ethics advisor, Klem noted while citing a recent CBS News report, which concluded that “according to four independent, China-based trademark experts … the approvals were standard.” Finally, Klem addressed negotiations with Sanei, stating that the two sides had reached an agreement in principle in August 2016, well before Trump’s presidential run. According to Klem, the company abandoned the agreement after discovering Sanei’s relationship with the Japanese government.
The Democratic lawmakers regarded Klem’s response as “vague” and “incomplete,” while including a series of additional questions. The letter noted that IT Operations also applied for a number of trademarks in the Philippines in February and March, following five years of inactivity on that front. The lawmakers question the timing of a meeting a few weeks later between President Trump and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte at the White House. The lawmakers asked if Ivanka Trump has disclosed any details about White House meetings with foreign officials.
“At best, Ms. Trump’s involvement in such meetings creates the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the lawmakers wrote on May 3. “At best, the swift and subsequent approval of foreign trademarks after these meetings creates the appearance of a quid pro quo.”
The lawmakers charge that Ivanka Trump’s actions are part of an overarching pattern “where the Trump Administration takes some official action, and the Trump Organization subsequently profits.” The letter asked that Ivanka Trump recuse herself from any future meetings that might carry the appearance of conflict.
“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,” the lawmakers wrote.
IT Operations did not respond to a request for comment.