The mystery of Ivanka Trump
Ivanka Trump is a mystery, even to some people working with her in the White House.
The first daughter, who will soon occupy a second-floor office in the West Wing, has been at the epicenter of her father’s White House and played high-profile roles in several recent visits with foreign leaders.
But she’s also taken a hands-off approach on major legislative issues such as healthcare — to the dismay of Republicans and Democrats alike.
It’s been a frustration to some working at the White House.
“No one really knows what she does exactly,” said one West Wing insider.
Ivanka Trump has the kind of unparalleled access to the president that comes from being his elder daughter.
A successful businesswoman in her own right, she gave her father a well-received nominating speech at last summer’s Republican National Convention. And she has filled in for first lady Melania Trump at important moments, such as when the president made an unannounced trip in February to Dover Air Force Base to honor a fallen Navy SEAL.
Democrats had hoped the socially liberal New Yorker would be a moderating force on President Trump on issues such as climate change and healthcare.
Instead, Ivanka Trump has appeared to carefully pick which moments to influence her father, at times remaining unabashedly passive.
As President Trump fought for the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal-and-replace legislation last week, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, were skiing in Colorado, something that reportedly irritated the president.
Friends of Ivanka Trump say it was ridiculous to think she’d constantly be battling her father over policies he championed during the campaign.
“The idea that she can change every single thing that critics view is wrong is incredibly unfair,” said one friend. “She spent her life as an entrepreneur, and she has an opportunity here to empower women in a real way.”
But Ivanka Trump has come under criticism from people who say she should be making better use of her position.
In a highly circulated opinion essay for Cosmopolitan magazine, Republican strategist Amanda Carpenter, who once served as Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) communications director, railed: “What’s she doing exactly? Nobody knows. What qualifies her? Apparently being the president’s daughter.”
“There’s a word for this: nepotism,” Carpenter wrote. “And it makes everything Ivanka has done up to this point to position herself as an example for working women into a farce. By taking this role, Ivanka is taking away a life-changing opportunity from another woman, who undoubtedly would have more expertise than the first daughter.”
From the left, Ivanka Trump has also come under fierce criticism from the leader of Planned Parenthood, who argued her silence on healthcare proposals was “deafening.”
“It’s time for Ivanka to … stand for women,” Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards told BuzzFeed.
The White House and friends of the first daughter are pushing back at the criticism, which they say is unfair.
A White House official suggested Ivanka Trump will continue to pick her battles by advocating “for these issues she’s been passionate about her entire life.”
The first daughter will be focused on the economic empowerment of women, workforce development, paid maternity leave and efforts to rid the world of human trafficking, the official said.
Asked what Ivanka Trump is hoping to achieve, the White House official said, “I think she’s in the process of determining what the deliverables are on these issues, but … she considers it an honor to have this platform and couldn’t do any of this without the president’s commitments to these same issues.”
Within the White House, Ivanka Trump can be a sounding board for her father. She’s also a trusted confidante able to be a calming influence.
Trump “was always more calm and centered when she was around,” one senior campaign adviser said.
Allies say those disappointed with Ivanka Trump were expecting her to play a larger role than she ever anticipated.
“She’s being held to a standard that makes no sense,” the friend added. “It’s totally unrealistic. … She’s not going to be able to change the core ideas her father campaigned on.”
Unlike Kushner — who is expected to be a central figure in the White House and advised the president against moving forward first with healthcare reform — Ivanka Trump is just doing what she finds interesting, the former Trump adviser said. “She’s not looking to be a major player.”
Ivanka Trump stepped down from a position at her fashion company ahead of her father’s inauguration in January and has made it a priority to get her family situated in Washington.
She was by her father’s side last month when he toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. She has sat in the front row of his press conferences alongside political strategist Stephen Bannon and other top White House officials.
When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to the White House, she sat beside him at an event on women in business. She later posted a picture on Instagram with her father and Trudeau as she sat behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
And behind the scenes, Ivanka Trump continues to offer the president advice.
“Ivanka shares her perspective candidly and privately, as anyone in her situation would do,” the friend said.
The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.