with Brent D. Griffiths
Good Wednesday morning. Today the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will be lit at 5:00 p.m. This year’s tree is 55 feet tall and from Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests. Tips, comments, recipes? Reach out and sign up. Thanks for waking up with us.
🚨Breaking overnight: Britain became the first country to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, Antonia Farzan reports.
- Here in the U.S.: A CDC advisory panel submitted recommendations for prioritizing 21 million health-care workers and 3 million residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities for the first doses of vaccine, Lena H. Sun and Isaac Stanley-Becker report.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE DAUGHTER?: Ivanka Trump has always been a business executive with a keen eye for marketing — whether that be real estate, moderately priced shoes or handbags. After she leaves the White House with her father, those who know the family say she could soon embark on a new venture: selling herself to American voters.
It’s unclear where exactly Ivanka Trump and her husband — Jared Kushner, who like Ivanka is now a senior White House adviser — will physically land after they are expected to leave Washington in January. Some anticipate the couple will return to their old home of New York, while others speculate they may relocate to a “cottage” at the president’s Bedminster golf course in New Jersey.
But former friends, colleagues and associates of the couple believe wherever they live, the first daughter will be contemplating how to maximize her political capital — whether that means an actual run for office, or a gauzier influence in Republican circles in a world where President Trump still holds enormous political sway.
It’s clear that some in and fallen from Trumpworld in New York — where “Not Wanted” fliers have cropped up around the city and “Lincoln Project” billboards in Times Square caused the couple to threaten a lawsuit — don’t want to see that happen.
- “I am happy to shed light on them to keep them as far away from our political realm as possible,” said Marissa Velez Kraxberger, a film producer and the former creative director at Ivanka’s now defunct company “Ivanka Trump,” who called the president’s eldest daughter “identical” to her father and voted for Joe Biden.
- “I think she’d want to be the [first] female president,” Kraxberger said, reflecting on her two years working with Trump. “I don’t think she’s actually ever had any interest in fashion but everything was an angle to gain more power in whatever possible way.”
- Read here for our full story.
Ivanka Trump has dodged questions about whether she plans to run for a political office. But over her four years serving as a senior White House adviser, she has completed a stunning transformation from a publicly liberal New Yorker who some hoped would serve as a restraining influence on her father to an “unapologetically” “pro-life” advocate of the MAGA agenda – a “proud Trump Republican,” as she told Fox News earlier this year.
Interviews with over a dozen sources painted a picture of a woman who, much like her father, is interested in leveraging the platform and global relationships she gleaned from her starring role in Washington.
- “I think she’s impressive and most people see she’s impressive and if she wants to stay involved with politics, people will take her with open arms. But staying involved with politics is different than running for office,” remarked a former White House official.
- The White House did not respond to a request for an interview with Ivanka Trump. “While the media seems only interested in covering trite topics and perpetuating idle gossip, Ivanka continues to focus on her policy priorities fighting for American workers and their families,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.
Nonetheless, Trumpworld could be seeking the next heir apparent once the president leaves office, though he is still baselessly insisting the election he lost to Biden was somehow rigged. Trump has personally expressed an interest in running again in 2024, though that would likely be from his perch at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. But the next generation of Trumps could also eye the throne, including both Ivanka and her brother, Donald Jr., who was popular on the road at MAGA rallies.
While earlier in the Trump administration Ivanka Trump denied interest in a 2024 presidential run, pollsters have included her name in surveys for a hypothetical Republican presidential primary pool that excludes her father.
- She notched 4 percentage points of likely 2024 general election voters in a McLaughlin & Associates – Newsmax poll released at the end of last month, falling behind Vice President Mike Pence, her brother Donald Trump Jr., Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
Others who know and have worked with the family warn that Ivanka Trump would not easily be able to shed the baggage of her father’s presidency. That became clearer after the New York Times reported Tuesday evening the president is discussing with his advisers whether to grant preemptive pardons to his children, his son-in-law and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Ivanka Trump isn’t known to be a part of any federal investigations; such a presidential pardon would not apply to state probes. But any whiff of legal trouble could stand as a roadblock to a political future.
- “There’s too much potential dirt that she doesn’t want released,” Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney who pleaded guilty in 2018 in two separate criminal cases related to his work for the Trump campaign and organization, said of the speculation. “It’s easy to say, ‘I‘m doing this, I’m doing that,’ but it’s different to put your entire life out there for the media to excoriate you.”
Several of those interviewed described watching Ivanka Trump’s speech at the 2020 Republican convention as a moment they recognized her full potential, as she called herself “the proud daughter of the people’s president” before describing her father as an empathetic and bipartisan leader.
- “I think from a personality profile she’s just like her dad and has a high opinion of herself and they tend to be ambitious, regardless of what they do,” a Trump campaign source added.
- “Everyone is saying that she’s running for office, and that’s the ultimate compliment for her,” said a source who runs in the couple’s New York social circle. “Her recent stance as pro-life was making her ambitions very clear that she is laying the groundwork” for a political future in Republican politics, said the source.
- This person added there “will definitely be a power struggle between [Ivanka] and her brother [Donald Trump Jr.], who is obviously more connected to the base,” and one of the GOP’s top fundraisers.
If the couple returns to Manhattan, there could be an opportunity to run for the 12th Congressional District, which covers parts of the Upper East Side, against Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who narrowly defeated a primary challenger to hang on to her seat, the source close to the couple noted. Other sources close to the Trump campaign and White House, however, dismissed the notion that Ivanka Trump would consider running for Congress.
Women’s economic development, job creation and paid family leave were among some of the policy issues adopted by Ivanka Trump during her father’s tenure. She notched a legislative victory after successfully lobbying for an expanded child tax credit in the GOP tax cut bill passed at the end of 2017. A source close to the couple called Ivanka the “perfect bridge to conservative women” and insisted that eventually people will come to the conclusion that “she was not bad.”
If “Javanka,” as Ivanka Trump and Kushner are known, does return to New York, their welcome could be harsh. Spoofs playing out imagined scenarios of the couple’s return to the city – and desperate attempts to secure an appointment at a hair salon or a front-row seat at New York Fashion Week – have become a viral comedic genre.
- “Any credible gallery and any credible artist will not sell to them,” scoffed New York Magazine’s senior art critic Jerry Saltz about the couple, who likes to collect art.
- Ivanka Trump’s former friends and bridesmaid at her wedding, Lysandra Ohrstrom, wrote a scathing tell-all account in Vanity Fair describing Ivanka Trump as having “the Trump radar for status, money, and power.”
There are still plenty of New Yorkers who remain loyal to Javanka, and willing to publicly associate with the pair. “A lot of collectors are Trumpists and Republicans and that art world will probably go on just hunky-dory,” Saltz added.
- See Bloomberg heiress Georgina Bloomberg, who told the Daily Beast that Ivanka Trump has “handled herself wonderfully over the last four years.”
- And Andy Stein, a longtime Trump friend from New York, doesn’t think the couple will lose sleep over their post-White House social status: “I don’t think that they particularly care anymore – they’ve had the world as their stage for the past four years,” said Stein. “Whether or not they go to Anna Wintour’s thing? I don’t think it matters. They’ve been glamorous enough with every world leader.”
- Trump’s former makeup artist Tina Turnbow, who did Ivanka Trump’s makeup for high-profile events including the presidential inauguration, described her as a “kind and smart woman,” “a creative visionary” and a “beautiful canvas to paint.”
- “Some of the people in my business are like, ‘I can’t believe you touched that face,’” said Turnbow, who voted for Biden. “And that’s just a shame. I still have a tender spot in my heart for her. I hope the best for her. And Jared was always so nice.”
The source who runs in the couple’s New York friend group remarked the family will “do just fine” anywhere north of 57th Street in Manhattan. But that source also warned some of the legal issues swirling around the first daughter could cause other kinds of headaches.
There are currently two New York state fraud investigations into President Trump and his businesses, which have expanded to investigate consulting fees that may have been paid to his daughter, as reported by the New York Times. Ivanka Trump is not the focus of the investigations.
- “That’s the type of thing swaying people…People have been wondering, ‘Do you really think they can go to jail?’ Suddenly there’s a criminal taint,” the source added. “It’s so much more than the Met Gala and there’s so much more at stake.”
- “This is harassment pure and simple,” Ivanka responded on Twitter, parroting a tone usually reserved for her father’s Twitter account. “This ‘inquiry’ by NYC democrats is 100% motivated by politics, publicity and rage. They know very well that there’s nothing here and that there was no tax benefit whatsoever. These politicians are simply ruthless.”
That’s not the only investigation hanging over Ivanka Trump’s head: Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former friend and confidant to first lady Melania Trump and a longtime Vogue executive who produced Trump’s inauguration and worked in the East Wing, is a third party witness for D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine’s (D) investigation into the Trump inaugural committee.
- Winston Wolkoff is slated to be deposed next week by the defendants – the Trump Organization, Trump International Hotel and the 58th Presidential Inauguration Committee – according to a source involved in the case.
Racine charged the committee, in coordination with the Trump Organization, with violating its nonprofit status by alleging it overpaid for rooms in the Trump International Hotel for the presidential inauguration. ProPublica reported both the outgoing president and Ivanka Trump were aware of and warned by Winston Wolkoff about the arrangement. Ivanka Trump has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
- The defendants issued Winston Wolkoff two new subpoenas in November: The Trump Organization and Trump International Hotel hand delivered her a subpoena the Monday before Election Day, as first reported by Vanity Fair and confirmed by The Washington Post.
- On Nov. 12, Winston Wolkoff was served another subpoena from the Trump Presidential Inauguration Committee requesting “All Documents Concerning any Communications” between her and “Donald J. Trump, Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., or Eric Trump Concerning the planning or execution of the Inauguration.”
- The deadline to respond to both subpoenas was on Tuesday and all requested documents were submitted, according to the source involved in the case.
At the Pentagon
TRUMP THREATENS TO VETO MAJOR DEFENSE BILL: “Trump on threatened to veto an annual defense bill authorizing nearly $1 trillion in military spending unless Congress opens the door for Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to be held legally liable for the way they police their platforms,” Tony Romm reports.
- The president has stepped up his attacks on what it is considered one of the Web’s foundational laws: “Section 230 is a broad, decades-old federal law that spares a wide array of sites and services from being held liable for the content posted by their users — and, in the process, the decisions about the posts, photos and videos that tech companies take down or leave online.”
This isn’t the first time Trump has injected himself into the defense bill debate: “He previously threatened to veto the roughly $740 billion defense bill, known as the NDAA, over a provision that would require the Pentagon to change the names of 10 military installations that recognize Confederate military officers who fought to preserve slavery,” our colleague writes.
The NDAA is not usually a controversial bill:
From the courts
DOJ PROBING POSSIBLE PARDON BRIBERY SCHEME: “The Justice Department is investigating a potential crime related to funneling money to the White House or related political committee in exchange for a presidential pardon, according to court records unsealed Tuesday in federal court,” CNN’s Katelyn Polantz reports.
- There’s a lot we don’t know: “The filings don’t reveal a timeline of the alleged scheme, or any names of people potentially involved, except that communications between people including at least one lawyer were seized from an office that was raided sometime before the end of this summer.”
“No government official was or is currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing,” a Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, told our colleague Spencer S. Hsu.
Needless to say, this isn’t something you see everyday:
At the White House
TRUMP IS PONDERING A SLEW OF PARDONS: “The president has discussed with advisers whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law and to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, and talked with Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week, according to two people briefed on the matter,” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt report.
- He’s concerned about what comes next: “Trump has told others that he is concerned that a Biden Justice Department might seek retribution against the president by targeting the oldest three of his five children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — as well as her husband, Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser.”
But a blanket pardon is not as simple as it sounds: “No president has tried to grant someone a pardon for crimes they have not yet committed — essentially a prospective get-out-of-jail-free card — and legal experts say it is unlikely to hold any weight,” the Times reports.
BARR SAYS THERE’S NO EVIDENCE OF “SYSTEMIC” ELECTION FRAUD: “Attorney General William P. Barr said that he has ‘not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,’ undercutting claims that Trump and his allies have made — without evidence — of widespread and significant voting irregularities,” Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey report.
- What this means: “His comments to the Associated Press, while caveated, make Barr the highest-ranking Trump administration official to break with the president on his allegation that the election was stolen, and they might offer political cover to other Republicans to stake out similar positions.”
- Trump’s legal team quickly shot back: “In a statement, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, and Jenna Ellis, a legal adviser to the campaign, said, ‘With all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance of a Department of Justice investigation.’”
On the Hill
STIMULUS TALKS RETURN: “A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a coronavirus aid proposal worth about $908 billion, aiming to break a months-long partisan impasse over emergency federal relief for the U.S. economy amid the ongoing pandemic,” Seung Min Kim, Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis report.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell quickly brushed aside the effort: “Obviously it requires bipartisan support to get through Congress, but it requires a presidential signature,” McConnell told reporters. “The place to start is: Are we making a law or are we just making a point?”
McConnell unveiled his own proposal that would probably be a non-starter for Democrats: “The measure includes a liability shield for businesses and more small-business assistance. It would provide short-term, limited jobless aid but no additional funding for state and local governments or help for cash-strapped transit agencies,” our colleagues write.
- His bill has grown more conservative in some areas than his previous approach:
BARR REVEALS HE APPOINTED A SPECIAL COUNSEL: Barr said “that he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel in October under the same federal regulations that governed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the original Russia probe,” the Associated Press’s Michael Balsamo and Eric Tucker report.
- This would make it hard for a Biden DOJ to fire Durham: “Under the regulations, a special counsel can be fired only by the attorney general and for specific reasons such as misconduct, dereliction of duty or conflict of interest. An attorney general must document such reasons in writing.”
Durham’s investigation is narrowing, Barr added: The probe is focusing “more on the conduct of FBI agents who worked on the Russia investigation, known by the code name of Crossfire Hurricane,” the AP reports.
BIDEN PUSHED TO NAME MORE BLACK NOMINEES: “Representatives from seven of the country’s leading civil rights organizations are pressing to meet with [Biden] in coming days, escalating pressure on him to appoint Black nominees to the remaining high-profile Cabinet posts amid concern that White nominees have dominated so far,” Annie Linskey and Matt Viser report.
- Some are arguing that Biden’s picks will influence the Georgia Senate runoffs: ““In order to win Georgia you have to have a very energized African American voting base,” said Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP. “At the very minimum you shouldn’t do anything to dampen the energy and enthusiasm of that base. Who he appoints to what position could very well do that.”
The president-elect has rolled out a diverse set of picks so far: “But those raising concerns cited Biden choosing White officials for top jobs at the state and treasury departments as well as White House positions including chief of staff, national security adviser and press secretary. Instead, they said, Biden has so far largely put Black officials in lower-profile positions or in jobs that include ‘deputy’ in the title,” our colleagues write.
Biden introduced his economic team on Tuesday: Cecila Rouse would be the first Black official to serve as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, which will be a Cabinet-level position.
Among the names floated for currently unfilled departments, per our colleagues:
- Attorney General: Deval Patrick, a former Massachusetts governor who ran the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Clinton administration, as well as Tony West, a former associate attorney general during the Obama administration. Some have also said Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is White but has a strong civil rights background, would be palpable.
- Defense secretary: Michèle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration who is White, has been regarded as the leading candidate. But recently, Jeh Johnson, a secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration, and Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general, both of whom are Black men, have been floated.
- Agriculture secretary: House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) has been pushing Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), a fellow member of the Congressional Black Caucus, for the post. But Biden has indicated he is reluctant to further weaken his party’s numbers in Congress.