Ivanka Trump: unofficial power player in the White House
She may have no official White House title. But Ivanka Trump already is proving that she is an unofficial power player.
This week, the first daughter joined President Donald Trump at a policy meeting with business executives and accompanied him on a trip to Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base on Wednesday to honour the returning remains of a US Navy SEAL killed in a raid in Yemen.
She also hosted CEOs at her home to talk policy and used her influence behind the scenes at the White House. These efforts have only underscored questions about the role Ivanka Trump, 35, expects to play after resigning executive positions with the Trump Organisation and her own lifestyle brand to move to Washington. For now, though, it’s her husband who is officially working in the administration.
“My father will be president, and hopefully, I can be there to support him and to support those causes I’ve cared about my whole professional career,” Trump told ABC’s 20/20 last month.
Whatever Ivanka Trump does, it will likely be unprecedented. There are no models for a member of the first family with a prominent policy role on the outside – or a first daughter with this much influence on the inside.
Ivanka Trump has sought to halt speculation that she will serve as a fill-in first lady, which has only been heightened by Melania Trump’s decision to continue living in New York City, where son Barron goes to school. Ivanka Trump told 20/20 that “there is one first lady”. But joining the president on the sombre trip to Dover was the kind of duty that would typically fall to the president’s spouse.
“That’s a typical scene you usually see played out with the president and the first lady, not the first daughter,” said Katherine Jellison, who chairs the history department at Ohio University.
Back in Washington, Ivanka Trump has continued her efforts to gather information about workplace policies for women. She hosted a dinner at her home in the tony Kalorama neighborhood for many of the business leaders attending a White House meeting, including the top executives at Wal-Mart, General Motors and Johnson & Johnson, according to people with knowledge of the event. They requested anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss a private dinner.
Trump also weighed in this week on a policy matter behind the scenes. Along with Kushner, she discouraged a possible executive order that would have impacted gay workplace rights and supported a White House statement that went out pledging to leave intact a 2014 executive order that protects workers for federal contractors from anti-LGBT discrimination, according to a person with knowledge of Ivanka Trump’s role in the discussion, which was first reported by Politico.
Trump also hit a few bumps this week – and learned about the bigger spotlight for the first family.
She drew criticism on social media last weekend when she posted a picture of herself and husband Jared Kushner in formal wear a day after her father announced an executive order barring refugees from certain countries. A source close to Ivanka said she feels badly about what happened and regrets the post.
Her self-named lifestyle brand also took a hit when Nordstrom announced it will stop selling Ivanka Trump clothing and accessories, creating some questions about the future of the brand elsewhere. The Seattle-based department store chain said the decision was based on the sales performance.
Rosemary K. Young, senior director of marketing at Ivanka Trump, said in a statement that the brand “continues to expand across categories and distribution with increased customer support, leading us to experience significant year-over-year revenue growth in 2016”.
A brand spokesperson said Nordstrom did order both shoes and clothing for spring and moved forward with the purchase of clothing.
Last month, Trump said she will take a “formal leave of absence” from her executive positions at the Trump Organisation and her lifestyle brand – which offers shoes, clothes and messages of female empowerment. Her company will be run by the current president and a board of trustees.
The process of unwinding those roles is complicated.
The Trump Organisation has not filed paperwork yet to remove Ivanka Trump from its alcohol licence for a company tied to the Trump Soho hotel in Manhattan, according to New York State Liquor Authority spokesman William Crowley. He said companies must update their licences within 10 business days of any management changes, and that requires agency review and approval first, and that process has not even begun because the agency has not received a request yet.
Alan Garten, chief legal officer for the Trump Organisation, said Friday that all paperwork had been filed to separate Ivanka Trump from the businesses. He noted that it was a lengthy process, which took several weeks. He did not immediately answer questions about that specific alcohol licence.