Ivanka Trump’s position sparks controversy


Ivanka Trump is working in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics. Her newest book, “Women Who Work” was released May 2.

The United States has never before had a child of a president actually working for the White House; under President Trump’s tenure, Ivanka Trump, his daughter, is finally taking the plunge. However, many American citizens are not happy with the concerns this raises, including nepotism and several serious conflicts of interest.  

From the campaign trail to the president’s inauguration in January, Ivanka Trump played a big role in his public image. She was often right beside her father at rallies and at many of his speaking engagements as the president. According to a poll by U.S. News, Trump is considered by many to be the most likeable and relatable person in the family, disagreeing with her father on key issues for moderates and Democrats, including climate change and Syrian refugees. Still, while some of her defenders wanted for her to take up a job with the president and be a voice of steadiness and reason in the White House, others were wary of what a role in the White House could bring for the president’s daughter.

In 2016, Ivanka Trump seemed to be uninterested in starting a political career, saying she did not intend to take a position working for her father’s administration. Instead, she said she would focus on helping her family settle into the District, which would be their new home after Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, accepted a job as a senior adviser in the Trump presidential administration. Still, before he took the post, Kushner took care to legally find his way around anti-nepotism laws and minimize his conflicts of interest. “In order to comply with federal ethics laws and after consulting the Office of Government Ethics, Kushner will take a number of steps to divest substantial assets,” Jamie Gorelick, Kushner and Trump’s primary lawyer, said. “[Kushner] will be a tremendous asset to the president.”

What is concerning is that Trump did not go through these same extensive measures. The ethics office of the White House even claimed that neither she nor her staff made any attempt to contact them. This is in direct conflict with a statement made by White House secretary Sean Spicer on March 21, when he said, “Ivanka Trump is acting in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics.”

Trump’s team of lawyers have tried to distance her from claims of nepotism by asserting that she does not receive a salary and is therefore not a government employee. They say that this entitles her to less vetting as well as a position under her father which would otherwise be illegal. However, the fact is that Trump now has a job in the West Wing, giving her access to highly classified information and an encrypted government-issued device. The apparent lack of scrutiny on possible conflicts of interests is troubling. “They keep pushing to these gray areas,” Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, said. “She looks like a government employee. She seems to be acting like a government employee. The reason we have these ethics and transparency laws is not because of the label you put on somebody, but because of the function they serve.”

This is not Trump’s first connection to a White House ethics issue. Previously this year, when Nordstrom dropped her line from their stores, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, actually told the press to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.” This was a direct violation of the Code of Federal Regulations, which prevents public officials from using their office to endorse any products for private gain. Trump did not have a role in making this statement, but it certainly does call into question what other regulations White House officials will overlook on her behalf. In March, senators Elizabeth Warren and Tom Carper wrote a letter voicing these concerns, saying, “Ms. Trump’s increasing, albeit unspecified, White House role, her potential conflicts of interest and her commitment to voluntarily comply with relevant ethics and conflicts of interest laws have resulted in substantial confusion.”

Confusion is certainly a fitting word regarding Ivanka Trump, her responsibilities in the White House and her potential conflicts of interest. Trump’s job is unspecified but gives her excessive levels of clearance for someone who has, according to several articles on both NBC and BBC, no experience or knowledge in politics. Possibly even more notably, Trump appears to be having trouble shutting down potential conflicts of interest. Although she no longer runs the Ivanka Trump brand day-to-day, she continues to own it and retains the power to veto new transactions and deals. Still, Trump, along with a good portion of the people that voted for her father, seem to think that she is doing nothing wrong with the management of her business and otherwise. “I take a legal document very seriously, and I wouldn’t go through the pains of setting this up if I intended to violate it,” Trump said. “I didn’t want to also be running a business, so I have no involvement. I put it into a trust with independent trustees. This particular title [in the White House] will just allow me to continue the advocacy work I was doing in the private sector but also weigh in with my father on the issues I feel strongly about. That’s all.”

If all she wants to do is weigh in on key issues with her father, then she absolutely does not need such high security clearance. Her claim to have no involvement in her business is clearly false when she still owns it and maintains crucial power in it. Trump’s so-called independent trustees are unlikely to ever really act without her approval, considering they are her brother-in-law and sister-in-law. Truthfully, Ivanka Trump gives the public too many reasons to question how legitimate her right and ability to carry out this job are. Until she chooses to answer these questions, a job under the president is simply unwarranted. “The thing with this situation, what makes it really bizarre, is the question of conflict of interest,” AP government teacher Mr. Kevin Phillips said. “No one really knows who is running the business versus who is in charge. Ivanka is not [running the business] but she has a close relationship with those who are. Obviously they see each other and have that kind of close situation. Then there is also the issue of both Ivanka and Jared Kushner not having experience. With all of that extra baggage, they just can’t offer very much.”