Ms. Trump’s Decision to Advise Administration while Refusing to Become an Employee Makes her Subject to FOIA
Washington, DC — For weeks at the start of the Trump administration, Ivanka Trump advised the president and offered input to executive agencies but refused to become a government employee subject to ethics rules. Nonpartisan ethics watchdog American Oversight today sued to obtain Ms. Trump’s emails with government officials from that time period.
“Americans need to see Ivanka Trump’s communications with federal agencies, because it’s hard to imagine that the FBI is the only place where the Trump White House crossed the line,” said Austin Evers, Executive Director of American Oversight. “By claiming all the privileges of a government employee while seeking to avoid the ethical constraints, Ms. Trump sacrificed the secrecy normally afforded to White House employees. If the president was trying to shield his daughter’s communications from public view when he declared that she wasn’t an employee, his strategy has backfired.”
While purely internal communications between executive branch employees can often be withheld from release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), that principle does not apply to communications outside the executive branch, meaning that emails between Ms. Trump, a private citizen, and government officials are subject to disclosure.
On March 31st, American Oversight filed FOIA requests for communications between Ivanka Trump and senior officials at five federal agencies where she reportedly had taken part in policy discussions: the departments of Treasury, Labor, Commerce, Education, and the Small Business Administration. No agency responded to the FOIA request, so American Oversight filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to force the government to release the records.
Since President Trump’s election last November, Ms. Trump has held a prominent role advising her father. After initially promising to not join the administration, as a private citizen she informally participated in a wide range of policy discussions at the White House, before finally being appointed as an Assistant to the President after weeks of criticism for trying to circumvent ethics rules.
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