You might have heard some negative things about Ivanka Trump recently, like that U.S. counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of her business deals and the president is plotting to push her and her husband out of the White House. Then there are Jared Kushner’s woes, which range from having his security clearance downgraded to reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into the mingling of Kushner family business and the Trump transition.
Usually such gossip is shot down by “sources close to” Jared and Ivanka, but late last month Ivanka chatted with the Washington Post, partially on the record, about how she navigates her dual role as First Daughter and senior adviser. According to Ivanka, and glowing statements from several people who work for her father, we might have misjudged her. Here’s what we learned.
If Ivanka has a fault, it’s being too innocent. There was no way for her to know that people in the Trump White House would be so nasty (aside from the rampant infighting on the campaign).
Ivanka has privately said she was naïve when she first came to Washington. She was unprepared for the palace infighting that has so shaped the White House power dynamics. It was not until the hiring of White House spokesman Josh Raffel last April that she and Kushner aggressively moved to protect their reputations.
She also has lamented to friends that she is sometimes “weaponized” — unwittingly invoked by other officials as a high-profile surrogate for their personal grievances, knowing that if Ivanka is said to be frustrated about something, it is likely to draw more attention.
Accusing her of focusing on random “pet projects” is mean and untrue. She also drummed up support for the GOP tax bill and her trip to the Olympics may have laid the groundwork for her father to agree to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (though it seems no planning went into her father’s sudden decision). Awkward silences during dinner with Korean president Moon Jae-in: not on her watch!
Ivanka said she was determined to forge a warm rapport with Moon, a progressive who has a somewhat cool relationship with her father. When South Korea’s first couple hosted the traveling Americans for a dinner of bibimbap with marinated tofu at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Ivanka knew from her research how to strike up a conversation with first lady Kim Jung-sook. They chatted about their shared interest in K-pop, a distinct musical style originating on the peninsula.
“She 100 percent carried the conversation of the dinner,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a member of the visiting U.S. delegation. “She and Moon instantly had a good connection and she and the first lady had really good chemistry.”
Ivanka works really hard. No “executive time” for her.
She peppered National Security Council experts in advance with questions, not just about the nuclear threat, but also about South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife’s hobbies. Flying over the Pacific bound for the Winter Olympic Games last month, she pored over a research dossier for hours. And she and her team choreographed many of the possible encounters she might have, including acting out what she would do if a North Korean official tried to shake her hand.
“I don’t like to leave a lot up to fate,” President Trump’s 36-year-old daughter, also a senior White House adviser, said in an interview with The Washington Post.
That includes her voice. She’s very committed to letting Americans enjoy the patrician accent she’s affected.
In some television appearances, Ivanka seems to present a simulacrum of herself — a for-public-consumption version that is at once both poised and guarded, complete with a breathy, unplaceable accent. In private, her voice sounds an octave deeper. She can be by turns lighthearted and defiant, down-to-earth and supremely confident. And like both her husband and her father, Ivanka sprinkles her conversation with the occasional curse word.
But she’s still super relatable. Who among us doesn’t have a soft spot for Journey, and a personalized memento from one of the band members?
On a small table in her well-appointed office sit several pictures of her kids, a framed copy of Trump’s typed “Remarks Regarding the Capital of Israel” — signed “To Ivanka, Love Dad” in the president’s oversized Sharpie scribble — and the lyrics to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” handwritten to her by one of the songwriters.
In fact, she’s just like any other White House staffer. “I must work incredibly diligently to follow protocol as any other staffer would,” Ivanka explained. That’s why she’ll occasionally update her employer on the policies she’s pushing on Capitol Hill, and the topics discussed during her frequent, unscheduled chats with her dad.
“The fact that she has her own relationships with members on the Hill enables us to accomplish more, and anytime she’s engaging in conversations, she’s checking in with us on how she can be helpful and getting our advice on what we need,” said Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs. “She would say, ‘I’m intending to go have a meeting today but I want to make sure your office is comfortable with it and what are the White House priorities I can help with.’”
Though she and her father speak multiple times a day — sometimes in unscheduled calls when the president spontaneously dials her — she says she honors [chief of staff John] Kelly’s demand that she inform him and other officials about any policy-related discussions the two have.
Except when she’s not like other staffers. But who knows, maybe Kellyanne Conway is allowed to tell Trump she’s not cool with the travel ban and won’t publicly defend it.
[Ivanka] does not see herself as a talking head and refuses to promote policies with which she personally disagrees; for instance, she was notably silent on last year’s Republican health-care plan, and has said little recently about her father’s guns agenda.
The president is still on Ivanka’s side. Kelly shouldn’t get any ideas, because Trump definitely wants her to stay in the White House.
“Everybody loves and respects Ivanka,” the president said in a statement. “She works very hard and always gets the job done in a first class manner. She was crucial to our success in achieving historic tax cuts and reforms and served as my envoy in South Korea, where she was incredibly well received. Her work on behalf of American families has made a real impact.”
And if he isn’t, it’s only because he loves her.
The president himself has exacerbated the tensions between his chief of staff and his family. He has mused to Kelly that he thinks Ivanka and her husband should perhaps return to New York, where they would be protected from the blood sport of Washington and less of a target for negative media attention, White House officials said. In the president’s eyes, “Ivanka’s still his little girl,” as one confidant put it.