The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

If Tiffany Trump wants to be just another Georgetown Law student, her plan isn’t working

Tiffany Trump has not been publicly vocal about politics, but Georgetown Law is hardly a refuge from the controversies of President Trump's administration. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post, Photo: Nigel Buchanan for The Post/The Washington Post)
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Georgetown Law students and professors gather each August to kick off the academic year with a reception in the student center’s ballroom. Last year, there were canapes and small talk and buzz about one woman, who was the object of much curiosity — Tiffany Trump.

The younger daughter of President Trump is a member of the law school’s Class of 2020, and students began chattering when they heard that the 24-year-old University of Pennsylvania graduate would be joining their ranks. Many haven’t stopped talking.

“Word spread like wildfire that she was there. People were following her around with cameras, and it looked really uncomfortable,” said a student who attended the event and like most of Trump’s classmates requested anonymity to discuss a fellow student. “She left within 10 minutes.”

Since then, Georgetown Law students have become more accustomed to the famous name in their midst. But as her father and his administration light up their daily Twitter feeds with controversial public policies, and Tiffany Trump remains publicly apolitical, her classmates remain fascinated.

When she gets coffee from the campus cafe, it’s noticed. “I’m in a What’sApp group chat, and we all share our Tiffany sightings,” one student said. “She gets gossiped about — what she’s wearing, that kind of thing.”

Members of Tiffany’s Secret Service detail dress down in plain clothes but still stick out. “Law students don’t wear ball caps” in class, said another student.

In some ways, she has managed to experience the routines of a typical “1L” or first year student. Lectures. Library time. All-nighters. A person close to Tiffany said she’s found the campus “warm and welcoming.”

“She had an awesome first year at law school and a great experience working as a research assistant this summer,” the associate said. “She is very much looking forward to starting her second year. She is actually taking a class right now prior to officially starting school in a few weeks.”

During her time on campus, Tiffany has attended a few of the Thursday night “Bar Reviews” — cheekily titled happy hours at local watering holes hosted by various campus clubs. At the annual “Barristers’ Ball” at the Building Museum in February — a formal evening that’s often called “law prom” — she sat with friends, though her Secret Service detail had to turn away partyers hoping to snap a photo of her.

Tiffany has shared only snippets of her campus life on her Instagram feed, where she has long chronicled her luxe travels and nights out for her nearly 1 million followers. In the midst of New York’s Fashion Week, she shared a photo of a law book that indicated she’d stayed up all night studying instead of perching in front rows of runway shows, as she had the year before.

But she mostly posts the same kind of glossy, filtered images that she had long before she came to Washington: Tiffany on a rooftop in Las Vegas in a sequined minidress; Tiffany on a posh balcony overlooking Los Angeles.

My back to school 🎈📓 #GeorgetownLaw

A post shared by Tiffany Ariana Trump (@tiffanytrump) on

The children of presidents are generally left alone during their undergraduate years. Malia Obama mostly flies under the media radar at Harvard, and other students at Stanford went out of their way to treat Chelsea Clinton as any other classmate.

But Tiffany Trump’s experience has been different. She’s in her mid-20s, and even before she arrived at Georgetown Law, it was clear she would be a proxy for her father’s often divisive politics, whether or not she shares them.

Maria Kari, a Pakistani Canadian lawyer who enrolled in the law school’s master’s program, penned an open letter that was published last year in Teen Vogue. In it she questioned Tiffany’s motivations for choosing law school and outlined her own anxieties about the Trump administration, which she felt was causing “chaos around the world.”

Kari, who shares no classes with Tiffany, had hoped to talk to the first daughter about her concerns and spotted Tiffany leaving a building on campus and introduced herself as the author of the letter. Tiffany, according to Kari, said she had read it several times.

“I told her that I really would love to get coffee sometime and hear her thoughts — I said ‘I’m genuinely curious,’ ” Kari said.

Tiffany told her to be in touch, but Kari’s attempts to send an email through the student directory were unsuccessful. Kari also tried DMing her on Instagram, but heard nothing.

Even though Tiffany has seemed uninterested in political engagement, Georgetown is hardly a refuge from the controversies of her father’s administration.

On the evening of Sept. 5, an email landed in every student’s inbox from University President John DeGioia. Earlier in the day, President Trump had announced the end of the Obama-era program that protected the young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” from deportation.

DeGioia called it “an unconscionable decision” that would affect some students on campus and outlined steps that university officials were taking to protect them.

Later that month, many of Tiffany’s classmates and some members of the law school’s faculty linked arms on the steps of McDonough Hall, where Tiffany attends classes, to protest a speech given by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The law school has also brought the younger Trump in proximity to some of her father’s political adversaries. Last fall, Tiffany was in the audience looking on attentively during a lecture by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal jurist who once called her father a “faker.” Tiffany’s father responded to Ginsburg by tweeting: “Her mind is shot — resign!”

And Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general whom Trump very publicly fired after she refused to defend his controversial travel ban, was named a guest lecturer on the law school’s campus.

Anthony Cook, a law professor who teaches progressive politics and community development, says that Tiffany may encounter critiques of her father’s administration in the classroom. But even the most liberal professors take care not to let partisanship overtake scholarship, he said. “They are mostly focused on analysis of law and teaching the skills that students need — how to isolate the essential issues of a case, how to argue both ways.”

Cook hasn’t had Tiffany Trump in one of his classes, but he said he’d welcome her.

“She chose to put herself in that mix,” he said of Georgetown’s liberal milieu. “If I were teaching, I would give her what she apparently came to experience.”

Georgetown Law officials declined to comment on Tiffany’s experience there.

Divining Tiffany Trump’s politics isn’t easy. She registered as a Republican as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania. She spoke at her father’s nominating convention but has since attended few public events at the White House, unlike her adult half-siblings. Ivanka Trump is a top White House adviser, while Donald Jr. and Eric Trump are running the Trump Organization in their father’s stead and often serve as his political surrogates.

This summer, Tiffany is a research assistant for Shon Hopwood, a professor whose unusual story — he became a jailhouse lawyer after serving time for bank robbery — has made him a media darling. Hopwood, who has become an advocate for sentencing reform, has reportedly worked closely on the issue with Tiffany’s brother-in-law, White House aide Jared Kushner. And Hopwood attended a White House meeting that President Trump held in January on prison reform.

Tiffany’s summer work with Hopwood has focused on prison reform initiatives and programs to help fight recidivism rates, which has “been really interesting for her and she has learned a tremendous amount,” said the person close to Tiffany.

Those looking for daylight between California-reared Tiffany’s politics and her father’s read the tea leaves on Instagram. She once “liked” a post from the student-organized, pro-gun-control March for Our Lives, which depicted a sign that read: “Next massacre will be the GOP in the midterm elections.” She posted pictures of herself and a group of pals hanging out at an LGBTQ Pride parade in New York.

Greyson Wallis, a graduate who participated in the protest of the Sessions speech as a third-year student, said as a student she had conversations with classmates about the first daughter in their midst. Some of her friends think Tiffany shouldn’t be held accountable for her father’s actions.

“Some of them say that the sins of the father shouldn’t be visited on the children — but I think that, look, none of us are children,” Wallis said. “She is a grown woman with an Ivy education who has elected to be silent and thereby complicit, like her sister.”

Still, there have been no reports of heckling, none of the shouting in restaurants that some members of the Trump administration have experienced. Several students said they prided themselves on decorum and civility.

Anyone who has been in contact with the younger Trump daughter in the Georgetown orbit invariably describe her as sweet, polite and seemingly trying not to stick out.

“Just a very nice girl. Polite to everyone,” said an employee of the Tropical Smoothie Cafe in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood near campus where she lives. Tiffany sometimes comes in, surrounded by her security detail, for an “Avocolada,” a concoction of pineapple and avocado.“We treat her like anyone else, which seems to be how she wants it,” he said.

Recent reports have surfaced that Tiffany Trump, who declined to be interviewed for this story, is struggling. People magazine quoted a source close to her mother, Marla Maples, saying that the younger Trump daughter is bothered by the “negative attention” to her father and her breakup with longtime beau Mechanic. The Daily Caller cited “sources” saying she’s not returning to law school, which a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization who acts as Tiffany’s press contact, said is untrue.

Summer ✔️ back to ⚖️ #georgetownlaw

A post shared by Tiffany Ariana Trump (@tiffanytrump) on

Classes start up later this month, and it’ll be back to lectures, exams and bad cafeteria coffee. But few other law students would have had a summer like Tiffany’s.

Her Instagram narration of the past three months has been a catalogue of designer clothes and envy-inducing locales. In late July, she was photographed partying with Lindsay Lohan at the actress’s nightclub in Mykonos. The pairing prompted tabloid headlines and rumors that Trump would be appearing on Lohan’s upcoming MTV reality show.

You know, just like your typical law student.