In April, it emerged that Donald Trump Jr. seemingly lied to prosecutors investigating the 2016 inauguration—and according to a new report, his sister Ivanka Trump may have too.
Per Mother Jones reporter David Corn, during a December 2020 deposition, the ex-president’s eldest daughter was asked by the D.C. attorney general’s office if she had any “involvement in the process of planning the inauguration.” (D.C. attorney general Karl Racine sued the Trump Organization, the Trump International Hotel, and Trump’s 2016 inaugural committee in January 2020, alleging the groups funneled large amounts of inauguration cash into the first family’s pockets via the hotel.)
Ivanka, who was an executive at the Trump Organization before becoming a senior presidential adviser, reportedly responded under oath, “I really didn’t have an involvement,” adding that if her “opinion was solicited,” she “would give feedback to my father or to anyone who asked my perspective or opinion.” That, she claimed, was that.
But according to documents obtained by Mother Jones, that does not actually appear to be true! Instead, it seems that the former first daughter was intimately involved in the decision-making for various aspects of the inauguration:
One email chain shows that Ivanka Trump was directly involved in the planning of at least one proposed event for the inauguration. On November 29, 2016, Rick Gates, then the deputy chairman of the Presidential Inauguration Committee (known as the PIC), emailed her the current schedule of inauguration events.
He noted that Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a lead producer working with the PIC, “is going to call you to discuss some additional ideas she has about some other events that we would like to see if you would be willing to do based on our meetings.” Ivanka replied to Gates and Winston Wolkoff, “Great. I am looping in my assistant Suzie who can coordinate a time for us to connect.”
A few days later, Winston Wolkoff sent a long “Dear Ivanka and Jared [Kushner]” email to Ivanka Trump and her husband. She thanked them for “our meeting yesterday” and presented them with a “high-level summary” of the inauguration plans “for your review.” This was a detailed report on the assorted events and themes being created for Trump’s inauguration. The “overarching strategic objective,” she reported, was “reinforcing” the theme “With the People: Making America Great.”
She laid out “key” messages, including “Our greatest strength is our people” and “Americans deserve to be heard, and their government needs to listen.” She noted that in their recent meeting, she and Ivanka Trump had discussed how to include Donald Trump’s “constituency” in the events, and Winston Wolkoff referred to proposals for doing so. This included inviting “families from all 50 states to attend official functions” and provide them “Airfare. Accommodations. Hair & makeup.”
In this email, Winston Wolkoff also asked Ivanka to confirm that she would host a “Women’s Entrepreneurs Reception/Dinner” as part of the inauguration. “Please let me know who…you would like invited,” she added. And she asked whether Ivanka Trump would prefer for the event to be hosted at the National Museum of African American History or the National Gallery of Art.
Winston Wolkoff also attached to the email the communications strategy for the inauguration, the proposed event schedule, and a list of the “100 most influential women in Business, Philanthropy, Fashion, Politics and Finance.” She ended the note saying she would “follow up” with them “at TT”—a reference to Trump Tower.
According to Mother Jones, Kushner responded the following day, writing, “Thanks, Stephanie—looks like it’s going to be a special event! So glad you are involved!” Ivanka Trump responded later that day, writing: “As mentioned, my interest in hosting [the dinner or reception for women entrepreneurs] depends on the quality and theme of the event.”
She asked Winston Wolkoff to coordinate with with Abigail Klem and Rosemary Young, who served as the president and marketing head, respectively, of Ivanka’s company, saying, “It would be great to have a cross section of industry and also invite top female cabinet members and lawmakers.”
In the email, Ivanka also said she would be happy to assist Winston Wolkoff if she ran into any problems coordinating with Reince Priebus, Trump’s soon-to-be White House chief of staff, and Katie Walsh, Priebus’s deputy: “please let me know if you don’t get the direction that you need from Reince and Katie and I will step in,” she wrote.
That same day, Klem emailed Winston Wolkoff to set up a time to discuss the Ivanka Trump event, and she cc’d Ivanka and Kushner. On December 6, Winston Wolkoff met with Ivanka and her business associates regarding the women’s event to be hosted by Ivanka, according to Winston Wolkoff.
In her book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady, which chronicles a host of internal problems within the PIC, Winston Wolkoff recalls that this meeting caused her to wonder “why was the PIC planning an event for Ivanka at all? And how had I gotten roped into it?” After the meeting, Tom Barrack, the billionaire pal of Donald Trump who was chairing the PIC, texted her, “We have so much to do for each of them,” referring to Trump family members.
While the women entrepreneurs event never panned out, Ivanka reportedly remained very involved in the planning of other aspects of the inauguration. For example:
Other emails show that Ivanka did participate in discussions about the talent being recruited for the inauguration. On December 23, Jon Reynaga, a producer working on the event, emailed Gates and Sara Armstrong, a top PIC official, with a list of musical artists being booked for inauguration events.
“They are all somewhat known acts but none are A-listers,” he observed. (The roster included Fantasia, a female soul singer, Big and Rich, a country act, and Katharine McPhee, an American Idol runner-up.) Armstrong replied, “Well I’m worried this gets into the lower level that Ivanka didn’t want.” Gates responded that Barrack had okayed this list, and he added, “The entertainment is coming in at cost/expenses which is one of the most important points for DJT—he will like that.”
In a December 16 text to Reynaga, Winston Wolkoff reported that Trump “DID NOT APPROVE THE BEACH BOYS and he nor Ivanka want them.” Asked about this during her deposition, Ivanka Trump said, “I don’t recall that. I love the Beach Boys.”
As a reminder, “I don’t recall” was a frequent response by Don Jr. during his deposition in the same case.
Separately, text messages viewed by Mother Jones show Ivanka instructed Winston Wolkoff to ensure there would be “tons” of reporters at the candlelight dinner that was being held the evening before the inauguration. When Winston Wolkoff replied that the Trump transition’s communication team was not sending out information on these events to all the media, Ivanka took decisive action.
She reached out to Sean Spicer and then responded to Winston Wolkoff, writing, “He is on it and will circle up with…you.” Elsewhere, a planning document showed that menus needed Ivanka’s approval. In her book, Winston Wolkoff wrote that she met with Ivanka and the soon-to-be president in his office in mid-December 2016 and presented them with plans for 18 inauguration events and then. Days later, Winston Wolkoff told Mother Jones, she met with the family in Ivanka’s office for “a run-through of the entire inauguration,” including the communications strategy, branding, and slides on events.
Like Don Jr., who essentially claimed in his deposition that he wouldn’t be able to pick Winston Wolkoff out of a lineup—despite the fact that video shows him lavishing praise on her for the “incredible” work she did preparing for the event at a dinner the night before the inauguration—Ivanka attempted to downplay her own relationship with the inauguration producer, calling her “a person I knew in New York who does events,” saying, “I didn’t know Stephanie Winston that well.” But, again, that does not appear to be entirely accurate:
[Emails] between her and Winston Wolkoff obtained by Mother Jones indicate that in previous years, Ivanka Trump and Winston Wolkoff had been friends. In 2012, Ivanka emailed Winston Wolkoff, “Jared and I are having a few friends over for dinner next Monday night (Nov 12th) and would love to have you and David join us. It will be a very casual, small group and I promise good food and conversation. If not, let’s catch up soon.” In another email exchange, the two women texted about family matters when they set up a lunch date.
Ivanka Trump was instrumental in landing Winston Wolkoff a top spot at the PIC. Days after Trump was elected president, she emailed Barrack, “Per our conversation, I want to connect you with Stephanie, cced. She would be great for you to speak with about the planning of the inauguration—as mentioned, i have no doubt she will be invaluable to you!”
Of course, it’s not at all surprising that the former first daughter would suddenly want to claim she barely knew Winston Wolkoff who, during the planning of the inauguration, questioned if the Trump Hotel was overcharging the committee, a key part of the D.C. A.G.’s lawsuit. Per Mother Jones, on December 17, 2016, she emailed Ivanka, Gates, and others to express her concern, writing: “Please take into consideration,” warning that that the PIC’s spending would eventually be audited. (Winston Wolkoff is a cooperating witness in Racine’s lawsuit against the Trump Organization and the PIC.)
Lawyers for Ivanka Trump and the Trump Organization did not respond to a list of questions from Mother Jones. After the lawsuit was filed in January 2020, the Trump Organization said in a statement that it was “a clear P.R. stunt” and that “The rates charged by the hotel were completely in line with what anyone else would have been charged for an unprecedented event of this enormous magnitude and were reflective of the fact that hotel had just recently opened, possessed superior facilities and was centrally located on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Last December, after the news broke that she had sat for a five-hour deposition, an extremely huffy Ivanka Trump insisted on Twitter that the D.C. suit was a politically motivated witch hunt. To which Racine responded: “We filed suit after gathering evidence that the Presidential Inaugural Committee knowingly entered into a grossly overpriced contract with the Trump Hotel. Any claim to the contrary is incorrect. DC law requires nonprofits to use funds for stated public purposes, and to avoid unreasonable, wasteful expenses. Our investigation revealed the Committee willfully used nonprofit funds to enrich the Trump family.”