But her emails.
Supporters of Hillary Clinton are wont to sardonically observe that this is often a line of reasoning offered by voters for backing Donald Trump over the former secretary of state.
But now the “her” is Ivanka Trump, elder and most beloved daughter of the president. It was revealed by the Washington Post on Monday that she sent hundreds of emails to government officials last year using a personal account.
Not a crime, perhaps, but the Democratic-led House oversight committee is itching to lead an investigation into whether Ivanka violated federal law.
Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state was catnip for House Republicans. In the 2016 presidential election, it led Trump to brand her “Crooked Hillary”. His supporters, then and still, chant “Lock her up!” at rallies. The vicious, concerted effort may have cost her the White House.
But what goes around comes around. American Oversight, the watchdog whose records requests led to the discovery of Ivanka’s poor email hygiene, wrote in a letter to Congress on Tuesday: “The parallels between Ms Trump’s conduct and that of Secretary Clinton are inescapable.
“In both her use of personal email and post-discovery preservation efforts, Ms Trump appears to have done exactly what Secretary Clinton did – conduct over which President Trump and many members of Congress regularly lambasted Secretary Clinton and which, they asserted, demonstrated her unfitness for office.”
Ivanka is not the first offender in this administration. Last year the House oversight committee began looking into private email after reports that her husband, Jared Kushner, and other White House officials had been using it for government business in possible violation of the Presidential Records Act.
Congressman Elijah Cummings, expected to be incoming chairman of the oversight panel, said on Tuesday he will resume that bipartisan investigation, which was dropped by Republicans. “My goal is to prevent this from happening again not to turn this into a spectacle the way Republicans went after Hillary Clinton,” Cummings said.
First, nepotism is the original sin of the Trump administration. There is little secret that Ivanka is his favourite child. Now he has been inadvertently betrayed by the one closest to him.
Second, there is that hypocrisy problem. Ivanka has blown up one of the central pillars of his critique of Clinton.
Ivanka has blown up one of the central pillars of his critique of Clinton
Anthony Scaramucci, author of Trump: The Blue Collar President, who spent 11 days as White House communications director last year, told CNN: “Certainly, I think it’s hypocritical. I think even Ivanka, if she was interviewed about it, she’d have to say that it was a mistake. You can’t do that in that position.”
As he departed for his luxury Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump sought to claim that Ivanka’s emails are different. “They weren’t classified like Hillary Clinton,” he told reporters. “They weren’t deleted like Hillary Clinton who deleted 33,000. She wasn’t doing anything to hide her emails … There was no server in the basement like Hillary Clinton had. You were talking about a whole different, you’re talking about fake news.”
But it’s a bit late now for Trump to start making fine distinctions. The entire anti-Clinton campaign was about broad brushstroke distortions, painting her as a threat to national security. And 37-year-old Ivanka’s apparent claim that she did not know the rules rings hollow.
Norm Eisen, former White House special counsel and special assistant for ethics and government reform, said: “Apart from the stunning hypocrisy of any member of the Trump family engaging in remarkably similar conduct to that which was excoriated by the president against Hillary Clinton, there are also profound and unanswered legal questions.”
It is vital to know, for example, whether Ivanka sent messages containing classified information – vulnerable to foreign hackers – or that related to potential conflicts of interest between her political and business interests. “Are we supposed to take her word for it or will there be an independent review of all her emails?” Eisen demands. “I fear I am not prepared to accept her assurance that she resolved the situation and I will expect Congress to resolve it.”
The temptation to take shortcuts on email is nothing new. When Richard Painter was chief ethics lawyer in the Bush White House, he had to advise staff against it. He is not surprised by the latest development. “The Trump administration has been hypocritical from day one about everything, so that is to be expected,” he says.
Painter wants the House, FBI and the special counsel Robert Mueller to sift through all Ivanka’s email debris. “The central investigation is not about her illegal use of personal email for government business. It’s what else is on the server relating to Russia and Saudi Arabia? What else is in there pertaining to the United States government?”
Recent reports suggest that Trump himself has been lax in using an iPhone that enables Chinese and Russian spies to listen in. And yet, all of that said, Ivanka’s email scandal is unlikely to make much of a tremor in the Trump heartlands. Will his crowds continue to chant “Lock her up!” without a hint of irony? Don’t bet against it.