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Jan. 6 panel gets inconsistent testimony on key Trump family conversation

The Jan. 6 committee has received apparently inconsistent testimony from key witnesses on a notable point: just how much effort it took Ivanka Trump to persuade her father to criticize the attack.

Three months ago, the panel sent a letter to Ivanka Trump asking her to voluntarily cooperate with its investigators. Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said investigators wanted to ask her about former President Donald Trump’s behavior as the attack unfolded. The letter homed in on White House staffers’ efforts to get Trump to speak out against the unfolding violence.

That letter leaned heavily on testimony from now-retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who was former Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser on the day of the attack. Kellogg “explained that White House staff wanted the President to take some immediate action to quell the unrest,” the letter to Ivanka Trump said, adding that Kellogg thought she could help get Trump to make a statement aimed at stopping the violence.

“The testimony also suggests that you agreed to talk to the President, but had to make multiple efforts to persuade President Trump to act,” the letter continues. Then it quotes from the transcript of Kellogg’s interview.

“And so presumably the first time she [Ivanka Trump] went in, it wasn’t sufficient or she wouldn’t have had to go back at least one more time, I assume. Is that correct?” the transcript reads, quoting the investigator who was interviewing Kellogg.

“Well, yes, ma’am,” Kellogg replies. “I think she went back there because Ivanka can be pretty tenacious.”

But multiple witnesses have described that specific episode differently to the panel, according to two people familiar with the testimony to the select committee. Those other witnesses, including the former president’s daughter herself, have testified that Trump sent out a tweet supporting Capitol Police just a few minutes after she first went in and asked him to say something about the attack, the people said. 

He sent out that tweet at 2:38 p.m., saying, “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” he wrote. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

In other words, according to these witnesses, it only took the president’s daughter a few minutes to get him to send out a statement responding to the violence.

While it’s a small detail in the context of the whole attack, legal experts have said it could have bearing on Trump’s potential criminal exposure. And the efforts and actions of the president’s closest advisers — including his daughter, then also a senior White House official — are a key focus of select committee investigators working to piece together the definitive account of Jan. 6.

In a statement his lawyer provided to POLITICO, Kellogg said the committee should accept Ivanka Trump’s version of events.

“I defer to Ivanka,” said Kellogg. “She was in with 45 one-on-one. Never saw the transcripts from the 6 January committee so cannot comment on what was in the write-up.”

The lawyer, John Coale, said Kellogg was referring to the transcripts of his and Ivanka Trump’s testimonies.

A select committee spokesperson declined to comment, and a spokesperson for Ivanka Trump did not respond to a request for comment.

That said, the statement Trump first tweeted out didn’t seem to have much effect on the chaos. And it drew criticism for urging people to “stay peaceful” even as rioters attacked police officers and broke into the Capitol building. Even the president’s own son Donald Trump Jr. saw that missive alone as insufficient, according to a text the committee released. “He’s got to condemn this [shit] Asap. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough,” he texted then-chief of staff Mark Meadows on Jan. 6, 2021.

As the attack continued, Trump’s staff kept pushing him to say more. The president ultimately taped a video message in the Rose Garden telling the attackers to go home. “We love you; you’re very special,” he added.

Still, the significance of how much effort it took Ivanka Trump to get her father to first sound off against the attack has been amplified by members of the select committee.

“We know his daughter — we have firsthand testimony — that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the select committee, said in a January interview with ABC News, appearing to allude to Kellogg’s testimony.

And though the question is just a small piece of the day’s events, it may have legal significance. Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor, said in March on the Stephanie Miller Show that Trump’s defiance of his daughter’s entreaties could be evidence of a crime.

“That is a president in a very real way, waging war against the United States,” he said. “Even his own daughter couldn’t stop him. That is deeply incriminating information. Presumably, it’s been provided by Ivanka under oath to the J-6 committee, and if I were prosecuting the case, she would be one of the very early witnesses I called.”

After reviewing POLITICO’s new reporting, Kirschner said the committee could be setting perjury traps for many of its witnesses.

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