This week, however, Trump basically conceded that the media's characterizations have been right all along when she formalized her advisory role by becoming an official government employee (albeit unpaid) with an office in the West Wing.
Trump's hiring doesn't change much. She was setting up a White House office, anyway. And she had said she would comply with all ethics rules that apply to federal workers, even if she wasn't one. Mostly, her position means we can stop playing this game in which journalists report that Trump is a key member of the president's team, and she acts like she doesn't know what they are talking about.
What a silly game it was. The first daughter was helping to shape policy, consulting on major staffing decisions and serving as her father's best character witness in interviews and at the Republican National Convention. Her importance was obvious. Yet she said at the women's summit in October that she was “not the campaign mastermind that people like to portray and speculate.”
“I hate the word surrogate because what does that mean?” she said. “When people talk about I’m his confidant, at one point they were actually saying — major newspapers were writing — that I was a vice-presidential candidate. I’m saying, 'No, I’m a daughter.'”
The vice-presidential thing wasn't really serious, by the way. The Washington Post's Philip Bump wrote last May that “Donald Trump should pick Ivanka as his running mate” but made clear that the piece was “a thought experiment” and added that the then-candidate was “as likely to pick Ivanka as he is Mitt Romney, Bob Corker, Shaquille O'Neal or the skeleton of Betsy Ross.”
The point was that future president Donald Trump leaned heavily on his daughter's counsel, which was apparent to everyone. Why deny it?
At the time of the Fortune event, Donald Trump was reeling from The Post's publication of a 2005 video in which he could be heard boasting about being able to “do anything” to women and get away with it because he is a star. I wondered at the time whether Ivanka Trump was anticipating an electoral defeat and was trying to shield herself from blame. The New Yorker's Sheelah Kolhatkar thought Trump might be attempting to protect her business brand.
It could have been either. Or both.
Or it could be that the Trumps just hate to admit the press is right sometimes. I am reminded of what former Page Six editor Susan Mulcahy wrote in Politico Magazine last year:
Denying facts was almost a sport for Trump, and extended even to mundane matters. While still married to his first wife, Ivana, Trump bought a mansion in Connecticut, and she decorated parts of it. Not the most earth-shattering news, but hey, everyone has slow days. When I called to confirm the purchase, Trump denied it, more than once. Sure enough, before long, he was spending weekends in the mansion, parts of which were decorated by Ivana. Did he think twice about such a seemingly pointless lie? Why would he?
Maybe denying that Ivanka Trump is a top adviser to the president was its own kind of sport. And maybe it just got old, after a while.