CNN reported Thursday that counterintelligence officials at the FBI are investigating Ivanka Trump's business dealings. Although the president's daughter herself is not being investigated, the FBI is reportedly scrutinizing the negotiations and financing of Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, which features an Ivanka-branded spa. It's unclear why investigators are examining this particular deal.
The hotel in question opened in February 2017, one month after Ivanka's father took office as president. The Trump Organization doesn't own the hotel, and has merely licensed the Trump name to be used at the property. Nevertheless, President Trump's company has earned over $5 million in royalties from the hotel, according to the president's June financial disclosure forms.
Ivanka reportedly played a key role in finalizing the agreement between the Trump Organization and Joo Kim Tiah, the developer. At a forum in 2015, before Trump launched his presidential campaign, Tiah said that striking up a rapport with Ivanka was instrumental in sealing the deal.
"One of the senior vice presidents [of the Trump Organization] pulled me aside and said, 'Joo Kim, it's really important in your presentation that you connect with Ivanka,'" Tiah said. "In that meeting, it was clearly just me and Ivanka talking about the project." He added that "Ivanka and myself approved everything, everything in this project."
Tiah, who hails from one of the wealthiest families in Malaysia, runs the Holborn Group, a Canada-based development company. His father, Tony, has a criminal record, having pleaded guilty in 2002 to providing false information to the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. Now, Tony is the executive chairman of TA Global, the family's property development company, while the younger Tiah serves as its CEO.
The Vancouver hotel features 69 stories, 147 guest rooms and 217 luxury residences, and it cost $360 million to build, according to CNN. The Washington Post reported in July that the State Department spent $15,000 to book 19 rooms at the hotel when Trump and his family attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the property's grand opening.
Although CNN broke the news of the FBI's investigation into the Vancouver property, it's unknown why, or in what context, this scrutiny is taking place. Some, however, have speculated that it may be related to Ivanka's security clearance.
CNN reported in mid-February that Ivanka, officially a presidential adviser, still only has an interim clearance more than a year after Trump's swearing in. The FBI is responsible for conducting the background checks that precede the issuance of security clearances, and if it is conducting such a background check on Ivanka, the agency's probe into the Vancouver deal could be related to this. However, this is all speculative, as there is no evidence (or reporting) that the FBI is indeed conducting a background check on Ivanka.
Donald Trump has faced many scandals during his young presidency, and both the president and several members of his inner circle are under investigation for possible obstruction of justice by special counsel Robert Mueller. Ivanka has largely steered clear of any legal controversies during her time in the White House, however, and the FBI's probe into the Vancouver property is unrelated to Mueller's investigation.
Over the summer, court documents filed in New York alleged that Ivanka's jewelry line was used in a money laundering scheme to hide a $100 million debt that a family of oil traders owed to the Commercial Bank of Dubai. Ivanka herself wasn't accused of any wrongdoing in the alleged scheme, however, either in those court documents or elsewhere.
More recently, Ivanka was criticized for her response to a question about whether or not she believed the women who've accused her father of sexual misconduct. Ivanka said that it was "pretty inappropriate" to ask her that question to the daughter of somebody accused of sexual impropriety, despite her position as a presidential adviser. Trump himself categorically denies all allegations of sexual harassment and assault. The official position of the White House is that all of Trump's accusers are liars.