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  21 Jan 2022, 09:29

US Capitol assault probe asks Ivanka Trump to cooperate

WASHINGTON, Jan 21, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Lawmakers investigating the 2021 US Capitol assault asked Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump on Thursday to cooperate with their inquiry, in a significant escalation of attempts to seek testimony from the inner circle of the former president.
 
   The House January 6 select committee told the 40-year-old businesswoman -- then a senior advisor to her father -- it had evidence that she had pleaded with him to call off the violence as his supporters stormed Congress.
 
   "Testimony obtained by the committee indicates that members of the White House staff requested your assistance on multiple occasions to intervene in an attempt to persuade President Trump to address the ongoing lawlessness and violence on Capitol Hill," chairman Bennie Thompson wrote to her.
 
   Investigators are looking into how the attack, which shut down Congress as they were certifying the 2020 presidential election, took place and to what extent then-president Donald Trump and his aides had a part in encouraging it.
 
   The committee has already spoken to around 400 witnesses and issued subpoenas for several key figures in Donald Trump's orbit, including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and one-time White House strategist Steve Bannon.
 
   The committee, which wants Ivanka Trump to sit for a voluntary deposition, is treating her actions as the riot was underway as a "key focus" of the probe.
 
   She appears to have direct knowledge of her father's attempt to persuade then-vice president Mike Pence to stop the counting of electoral votes, it said in a statement.
 
   "As January 6 approached, President Trump attempted on multiple occasions to persuade vice president Pence to participate in his plan," Thompson wrote.
 
   "One of the president's discussions with the vice president occurred by phone on the morning of January 6. You were present in the Oval Office and observed at least one side of that telephone conversation."
 
   - 'President's plan to obstruct' -
 
   The panel said in a statement it was also seeking information from Ivanka Trump about concerns voiced by White House lawyers, lawmakers and Pence aides about her father's plan "to obstruct or impede the counting of electoral votes."
 
   The eldest of the former president's two daughters, who served as director of the White House Office of Economic Initiatives and Entrepreneurship, wasn't immediately available for comment.
 
   Her spokesman said in a statement circulated among US media that she had "just learned" of the committee's request but did not indicate whether she would comply.
 
   "As the committee already knows, Ivanka did not speak at the January 6 rally," he said.
 
   "As she publicly stated that day at 3:15pm, 'any security breach or disrespect to our law enforcement is unacceptable. The violence must stop immediately. Please be peaceful.'"
 
   The action came after the committee scored a major win in its legal battle for documents related to the attack that were being blocked by the ex-president.
 
   - No privilege -
 
   The US Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected Donald Trump's bid to prevent the records held by the National Archives from being given to investigators.
 
   President Joe Biden waived executive privilege on the Trump records so they could be handed over to the committee, and the appeals court decided that "the right of a former president certainly enjoys no greater weight than that of the incumbent."
 
   Documents that the former president hoped to block include emails, phone records, briefing materials and other records.
 
   On Tuesday, the committee issued subpoenas to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani -- a key figure in Donald Trump's failed bid to overturn the election -- and three other allies of the defeated ex-president.
 
   Joyce Vance, legal analyst and former US attorney in Alabama, congratulated the committee for "continuing to play hardball" in its investigation.
 
   "After yesterday's (Supreme Court) ruling, tough to see any way out of complying for Ivanka -- even if she takes the 5th, she has to engage," Vance tweeted.
 
   "There is no daddy/daughter privilege."
 
   Political commentator, author and lawyer Teri Kanefield predicted however that Ivanka Trump would not testify.
 
   "Now she's in a bind because there's direct testimony that (she) pleaded with Trump to stop the violence," Kanefield said.
 
   "Also, this means the committee is almost finished."

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