Ivanka Trump could start with the nation's child care system, the issue she persuaded her father to tackle during the campaign. Or boosting women in the business world — she has already discussed that with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The public might never know what, exactly, Ivanka is doing in the White House. She is moving into a West Wing office and serving as an informal adviser to her father. But she is not necessarily bound by federal ethics regulations, though she has said she will “voluntarily” follow them.
Ivanka, 35, is reportedly receiving a security clearance, granting her access to sensitive information. She hasn’t had to pass a background check, like many other West Wing employees do, and she doesn’t have to answer to anyone beyond her immediate family.
Though Ivanka has technically stepped down from her companies, her attorney told Politico that she is handing control of her assets to her relatives: brother-in-law, Josh Kushner, and sister-in-law, Nicole Meyer. With Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, already working as a White House senior advisor, the Trump administration has become a thoroughly family affair.
Dave Mayer, a business ethics professor at the University of Michigan, said that, by granting his daughter White House real estate, Trump has stepped into explicitly nepotistic territory, whether or not Ivanka has a defined title.
“You could understand why Trump would want to be surrounded by family members, who he can trust,” Mayer said. “But the problem is: There’s very little oversight.”
Meanwhile, he said, family members passing the reins to family members doesn’t qualify as a clean break from a business. President Trump is, say, a text away from his older sons, who now control the family real estate empire — and nothing’s stopping Ivanka from quietly advising Kusher and Meyer about her financial interests.
“There’s just no way to know,” Meyer said.
Sarah Lenti, who served as a former director of the National Security Council under Condoleezza Rice, said Ivanka skipped a staircase of formal steps on her journey to the White House. “But if he’s going to better serve the country because he has a trusted ally in there,” she said, “that’s not a bad thing.”
During the campaign, Trump named Ivanka the mastermind behind his policy proposals on child care and paid family leave, the first on such issues from a GOP president. Lenti expects Ivanka will help sell those ideas to a Republican-dominated Congress, who might not be thrilled about increasing government aid to families.
“It’s very clear she's going to take on issues that affect women in the workplace,” Lenti said, “moms in particular.”
Last month, reports surfaced that Ivanka has been hosting Republican lawmakers at the White House to talk about the logistics of creating new safety nets for struggling parents. Among her plans, backed by President Trump: allowing households to deduct the average cost of child care where they live from their taxes — an annual expense that can range from about $5,000 in Alabama to roughly $22,000 in the District of Columbia — and creating a national paid family leave program.
As of today, the only federal protection for working parents is the Family Medical Leave Act, which simply prevents employers (with more than 50 workers) from firing someone who takes up to 12 weeks off to care for a new child.
Trump, influenced by Ivanka, has suggested opening the country’s unemployment insurance system to new mothers, allowing them to receive wage-loss-covering funds for up to six weeks. For now, though, health-care, tax reform and the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia will likely absorb more of Ivanka’s time.
“I don’t see her as someone sitting in the White House only thinking about family issues,” Lenti said. “It’s clear she has her father’s trust. She’s probably there to help him with the issue of the day.”
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