Feb 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Ivanka's pardon push part of her reemergence plan

Senior advisor to the President Ivanka Trump listens during a rally
Ivanka Trump. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Ivanka Trump used her status to help obtain over 140 pardons and commutations for victims of injustice as well as her father’s cronies, and she's now plotting her political reemergence by highlighting the virtues of some of the clemency grants.

Why it matters: While President Trump's eldest daughter dismisses talk she is weighing a campaign against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), criminal justice reform is a popular, bipartisan issue to associate with as she plots her future endeavors.

  • “It would not be surprising if it’s among the causes she champions in her next chapter," a source close to Ivanka told Axios.

Behind the scenes: President Trump made headlines during his final days in office by issuing a raft of pardons and commutations, including a last-minute one to the former husband of Fox News Channel host Jeanine Pirro.

Less known is the role his eldest daughter played, especially in relation to nonpolitical actions.

  • Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, intensively lobbied her father on the issue, several sources said. She attended multiple Oval Office meetings and made calls from empty offices in the West Wing.
  • The night before Joe Biden's inauguration, she stayed at the White House until roughly 8:30 p.m., as she and other top Trump officials wrangled over controversial eleventh-hour pardons for presidential allies like Steve Bannon and Elliott Broidy.
  • Once the final list was released — after 1 a.m. on Inauguration Day — she spent the next two hours calling the families of those for whom she had advocated.
  • She continued calling on her way to Joint Base Andrews, where her father gave his last speech as president before jetting off to Florida on his final Air Force One flight.

Ivanka worked closely with a series of non-governmental organizations like #cut50, that brought specific nonpolitical cases to her attention. The sources said that some of the people she personally lobbied for include:

  • Kyle Kimoto, a father of six, convicted for a telemarketing scam that stole $43 million from Americans.
  • Michael Harris, founder of Death Row Records, charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.
  • Charles Fragoso, a U.S. Navy veteran, who served more than 30 years of a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense.
  • Chalana McFarland, who served 15 years of a 30-year sentence for money laundering, bank and wire fraud and other financial crimes. If she had accepted a pretrial plea bargain, she would have been imprisoned just seven years.
  • April Coots, who served more than 10 years of her 20-year sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. She was described as an exemplary inmate who obtained an HVAC license and completed the PAWS apprenticeship program.

What they're saying: Ivanka has "been very much involved in the criminal justice issues for a long time, going back to the First Step Act," Mark Holden, chairman of the board of Americans for Prosperity, told Axios. "It's great if she could continue doing it. … We need all the help we can get."

  • Holden added that he wasn't sure what drove the administration to grant political pardons for Trump allies like Bannon and Broidy, but they "were not the people that we were working with or trying to get clemencies for."
  • Jessica Jackson, co-founder of #Cut50, said she has worked with Ivanka Trump on a number of nonpolitical pardons and commutations, and that she became the go-to person in the White House on the issue.
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