Meet the Congressman Asking the FBI to Investigate Ivanka Trump

Congressman Don Beyer discusses the Trump family's reticence to publicly disclose foreign contacts.
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Congressman Don Beyer discusses the Trump family's reticence to publicly disclose foreign contacts.
U.S. Representative Don Beyer, pictured here in 2016.

U.S. Representative Don Beyer, pictured here in 2016.

Three months after first calling on President Donald Trump to revoke Jared Kushner's security clearance, Congressman Don Beyer (D-Virginia) is questioning whether Kushner's spouse, first daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump, intentionally failed to disclose significant foreign contacts on her own security clearance forms.

Along with 20 other representatives, Beyer asked Federal Bureau of Investigation Acting Director Andrew McCabe via an open letter to determine whether Ivanka Trump complied with federal disclosure laws when she filed her SF-86. The form asks applicants to list the foreign contacts of their spouses and siblings, along with their own; intentionally omitting or submitting incorrect information is a federal crime that carries a five-year prison sentence. Kushner, who will testify on Monday on the nature of his meetings with foreign proxies, has had to update his own form three different times in recent weeks after failing to disclose nearly 100 foreign contacts.

Beyer spoke with Pacific Standard Wednesday afternoon to discuss the family's reticence to proactively and publicly disclose meetings with foreign officials.

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What kind of legal obligation does the White House have to release Ivanka Trump's SF-86 form? I imagine it's difficult to prove that somebody has knowingly falsified information.

I don't think the White House has any legal obligation to release the forms. To the best of my knowledge the forms are not public records, unlike an FEC [Federal Election Commission] disclosure or personal financial disclosures. We do send a lot of letters, just in general. The letters tend to be to committee chairs or specific legislators, or to members of the administration on, once again, specific issues.

What's a little problematic is the White House's direction from the president. [The] executive branch doesn't answer any letters from Congress unless it comes from the committee chairman—friends who are all Republican. That was not the case in the Obama administration or, I don't think, in administrations going back. Sometimes it would take too long to get an answer, but we always had it. And really what prompted this was, with all of the hoopla around Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner's [reported meetings] to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, people began to say, well, if Kushner didn't disclose his meaningful foreign contacts, and his wife Ivanka has a prominent position in the White House, with her own office and chief of staff and security clearance, and with the responsibility under the law to disclose the foreign contacts of her spouse and her siblings, did she forget to list those 100 contacts also?

Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner step off Air Force One upon arrival at Rome's Fiumicino Airport on May 23rd, 2017.

Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner step off Air Force One upon arrival at Rome's Fiumicino Airport on May 23rd, 2017.

And so, writing Andrew McCabe at the FBI is the only way we have, really, to at least pose the question, and get the FBI to look seriously at it. If she did, obviously there's no problem. If she didn't, then the question is, did the [incident] rise to the level of a federal crime? That's not for me to decide.

So it was that chatter in Congress that prompted you to write publicly about the potential conflict last week?

We've been paying attention to [issues surrounding] Jared's security clearance for three months now, until the FBI got to the bottom of him leaving that page blank the first time. And only little by little over three different iterations did he come clean. The big picture issue is you have a family, a couple of generations which are notoriously untrustworthy. Where their prime interests, whether it's hotels or golf courses or Russian investors, intermingle in uncomfortable ways with their public responsibilities. And I think it's really important to the American people that they be kept separate. One of the best suggestions came from Congressman Bill Flores (R-Texas), who suggested the president get the second generation out of the White House. Bring in people who have no financial conflicts, who are there to show real professional leadership.

Presumably you're not holding your breath for the president to revoke Ivanka's security clearance. How long are you committed to pursuing this and other related issues should it come to light that she didn't properly disclose information?

That's a day-by-day decision depending on what else is happening. If Trumpcare comes back from the Senate to the House floor we'll be spending much more time on that than on the Ivanka piece. It just depends on what the priorities of the day are.

For onlookers it can be pretty difficult to keep track of the new developments as they come out piecemeal, or muster up same kind of outrage. Why is this potential conflict significant? Or is it just another way of framing the same issues we've been discussing for months?

It's both. It's definitely another way of looking at the same issue. I've tried to make the same point, that the Trump family cannot and should not be above the law. And the significance is really yet to be determined. If she were just the first daughter, not an issue. It's the fact that the president has elevated her to a position of prominence inside the White House with some significant responsibilities and security clearance. And, this is one of the best examples of all, was her sitting in the G20 meeting in the president's chair. Clearly, she has a major role in this administration.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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