WASHINGTON (CN) – A nonpartisan government watchdog has brought a federal complaint for access to any policy discussions Ivanka Trump might have had with government officials before she officially joined her father’s administration.
Filed in Washington on May 17, the 10-page complaint by the group American Oversight says there is public interest in understanding the role Ivanka played before President Donald Trump made her a federal employee on March 29.
“Notwithstanding the fact that she had reportedly obtained an office in the White House, a government-issued communications device, and a security clearance, media reports indicated that Ms. Trump continued to assert that she was ‘not technically serving as a government employee,'” the 10-page complaint states.
American Oversight requested records dating back to Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, which includes the time before Ivanka took on an official government role that subjects her to ethical oversight.
The group sued the Departments of Education, Labor, Commerce and Treasury, all agencies that are believed to have engaged in policy discussions with Ivanka, and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“We need to know what kinds of requests Ivanka Trump has been making to federal agencies, because it’s hard to imagine that the FBI is the only place where the Trump White House crossed the line,” American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said in a statement.
The complaint says Ivanka had discussed child care and family leave at the White House with Republican lawmakers, and met with small-business owners for a round-table with Linda McMahon, the World Wrestling Entertainment magnate whom Trump tapped as chief of the Small Business Administration.
Ivanka also met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in March to discuss workforce development.
After Ivanka joined the administration as an unpaid adviser, one of Trump’s other children, Eric, told CNN that his sister should be credited for influencing the U.S. launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air field.
President Trump said he acted in retaliation for a deadly chemical attack in rebel-held Khan Sheikoun in northwestern Syria, carnage that the U.S. has attributed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In identical March 31 FOIA requests, American Oversight asked for emails and text messages exchanged between the defendant agencies and Ivanka Trump or her representatives, along with her calendars.
The watchdog claims all of the agencies have exceeded the time the law allows for making a determination about whether they will comply with the requests.
In a statement, Evers noted that communications between a private citizen, which Ivanka was until the end of March, and government officials are subject to FOIA disclosure.
“When Ms. Trump tried to have all the privileges of a government employee without any of the ethical constraints, she sacrificed many of the protections against disclosure normally afforded to employees,” Evers said.
“If the president was trying to shield Ms. Trump’s communications from public view when he declared that she wasn’t an employee, his strategy has backfired,” he added.
The Treasury Department declined to comment on the pending litigation. The Departments of Labor and Commerce did not respond to a request for comment.
Eric Benderson, acting general counsel at the Small Business Administration, said his office is reviewing an informal copy of the complaint that it received today.