Ivana Trump, Donald Trump’s first wife, was under FBI investigation, documents show

Ivana Trump was under an FBI counterintelligence inquiry on allegations surrounding her ties to her home country Czechoslovakia, a trove of secret documents has revealed.

The FBI “recommended a preliminary inquiry be opened on Ivana Trump” based on information received from a confidential source in 1989, according to 190 pages of classified documents released by the law enforcement agency on Monday as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from Bloomberg News.

One passage in the trove of documents noted that it was “unknown” whether the allegations against her “stem[med] from jealousies of her wealth and fame” but said the probe was nonetheless “continuing”.

Born Ivana Zelníčková in 1949 in what was then Czechoslovakia, she left the then-communist country in 1971 after marrying an Austrian ski instructor who she divorced a year later after obtaining Austrian citizenship, eventually making her way to California, then New York, where she earned a living as a model.

She met the future president in 1976 in New York City, and the couple married in April 1977. Their first child, Donald Trump Jr, was born just over eight months later. Her daughter, whose full name is also Ivana Trump (Ivanka is a diminutive form of the name, literally “little Ivana”) was born in 1981, with their third child, Eric Trump, following three years after that.

The couple was a mainstay of New York City popular culture in the 1980s, but by the end of the decade they would divorce after his affair with his future second wife – Marla Maples – became public.

Ivana Trump (AP)
Ivana Trump (AP)

The divorce was contentious and provided front-page tabloid fodder for months. According to the newly-released documents, it also provided at least some information to FBI agents who looked into court records pertaining to the couple’s divorce proceedings.

The ex-president does not frequently appear in the now-public tranche of his late ex-wife’s FBI file, but he is mentioned in one passage that references a 16 January 1989 Time magazine article headlined “Trump”.

Despite the contentious divorce, Ivana kept the Trump name and continued to remain friendly with her first husband. According to the New York Post, she claimed to speak with him “before and after” his campaign appearances. She later told the Post that her ex-husband offered her the post of Ambassador to the Czech Republic after he won the presidency, but she turned it down.

She died from a fall in her New York home in July 2022, aged 73.

The FBI’s counterintelligence inquiry into Trump spanned several countries, including Canada and Austria, and looked into her association with individuals whose names were not released by the agency.

The agency sought information from US legal attaches in Canada and Europe to obtain the circumstances of her emigration from then-Communist Czechoslovakia to Austria and later her move to Canada, the report said.

The trove of documents, numbering up to 900 pages, was classified as “secret”. The tranche of 190 pages made public on Monday were the first to be produced, with more to be declassified and released next month.

Donald Trump and his wife Ivana appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago, Illinois, April 25, 1988. (Paul Natkin/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and his wife Ivana appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show in Chicago, Illinois, April 25, 1988. (Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

One document from the file dating back to 1990 revealed the FBI was looking into a man with ties to Czechoslovakian intelligence who arranged fictitious marriages. The Czechoslovakian man was believed to have some connection with Trump.

The man was referenced as a “leading member of the Czechoslovak artistic/intellectual community” who “sometimes” worked to arrange fake marriages and “fortuitous relationships”. He was interviewed by the FBI, but details were redacted.

The documents cited a “highly confidential and reliable source” who revealed that Trump was in Czechoslovakia on 4 June 1990, where she met Vaclav Havel, who served as the last president of Czechoslovakia. He gave her an autographed book.

Ivana Trump (AP)
Ivana Trump (AP)

Havel’s was one of the few high-profile names revealed in the highly redacted documents.

Their association was linked to Barrandov Film Industry, the country’s largest film studio based in Prague.

Trump, who was not a public figure at that time, appeared in an episode of a show filmed in the studios in 1970, called Pan Tau.

The nature of the FBI’s inquiry into Trump is unknown, but it spanned at least two years and she was not accused of any wrongdoing.