*This post of mine is published on CNN.*
Despite previously stating that she would not take on an official role in her father’s administration, Ivanka Trump is now moving into an advisory position in the White House.
Just like Donald Trump, Ivanka has significant conflicts of interests — both nationally and internationally — to navigate around, and her entry into the West Wing raises major ethical red flags we cannot ignore.
And since there is little precedent for a daughter serving in the White House, Ivanka may benefit from weak accountability mechanisms, which allow her to take full advantage of her new position.
The move grants Ivanka security clearance, access to classified information and a government-issued handheld device. Despite not receiving an official title or salary, Ivanka has been formally placed at the center of her father’s administration.
“Having an adult child of the President who is actively engaged in the work of the administration is new ground,” Ivanka’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said. “Our view is that the conservative approach is for Ivanka to voluntarily comply with the rules that would apply if she were a government employee, even though she is not.”
Gorelick went on to state that as Ivanka’s role expands, she “plans to adhere to the same ethics and records retention rules that apply to government employees, even though she is not technically an employee.”
Ivanka taking on a key role in her father’s White House comes as no surprise to anyone. She was a constant figure in her father’s political campaign, and is a noted and trusted confidant of the President. In a statement following the announcement, Ivanka said she would “continue to offer my father my candid advice and counsel, as I have for my entire life.”
Upon her arrival in Washington, with husband Jared Kushner, himself a senior White House adviser, Ivanka took on a largely inconspicuous role. The elegant and articulate daughter of the President, who championed women’s empowerment and business, basically went quiet.
Now it appears that Ivanka was just being strategic about her timing before taking her place, along with her husband, as the country’s de-facto First Couple. As one of the most powerful first daughters the country has ever seen, Ivanka is in place and ready to rule Trump’s America.
The Department of Justice may have ruled Kushner’s hire as not being in violation of anti-nepotism laws, but Ivanka, despite divesting some of her assets and selling $36.7 million in assets to comply with ethics rules, still owns her clothing and jewelry brand.
Ethics watchdogs say the measures Ivanka is taking in both divesting and selling assets are “better than nothing,” but are still weak in the face of blatant ethics violations by her father, whose hotels and golf courses continue to engage in business with foreign and national groups. And why should we expect Ivanka to behave any differently?
There was a time when people were willing to give Ivanka the benefit of the doubt. After all, she is one of the most likable in the Trump family and one of their most effective public relations tools.
However, it is time for us to openly acknowledge that Ivanka is not a better version, but just a less offensive version of her father, his policies and his interests. As “Saturday Night Live” so brilliantly parodied, she is “a woman who knows what she wants. And knows what she’s doing. Complicit.”
Getting an office in the West Wing is a huge deal, usually requiring the candidate to have years of expertise, and not normally one reserved for the children of the President.
The fact that there is no playbook for anyone to follow just means less accountability for the Trumps when they run into conflicts of interests, which are frankly, inevitable. Having her lawyer tell us to take comfort in knowing Ivanka will do the right and ethical thing is simply not enough.
Ivanka Trump setting the precedent of placing the children of the President inside the West Wing should worry us. After all, she has just as much interest as her father to use public office to advance her business-related interests.
*This post of mine is published on CNN.*