President Trump issued the subtlest of rebukes Thursday to his supporters who chanted “send her back” about Somali American Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). He said he disagreed with the chant and that he tried to stop it. (He didn’t.)
And who reportedly advocated for that course-correction? You guessed it: his daughter, Ivanka Trump.
Thursday was merely the latest time the president’s daughter has been reported to have intervened to guard against her father’s worst impulses. The Wall Street Journal first reported:
On Thursday morning, Ivanka Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter and White House adviser, expressed her displeasure to him about the “send her back” chant at his campaign rally the night before, White House officials said. A group of House Republicans, including members of leadership, also complained to Vice President Mike Pence about the chant at a breakfast meeting, White House and congressional officials said.
CBS News also reported that it had “learned President Trump took a lot of heat from his family over the racist chants at a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday. He heard from first lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka and Vice President Pence.” The New York Times, meanwhile, reported, “Nervous Republicans, from senior members of Congress to his own daughter Ivanka, urged President Trump on Thursday to repudiate the 'send her back’ chant."
Our Washington Post colleagues reported that Pence became a conduit for other Republicans who were disturbed by the chants. We can’t know whether it was Pence and consternation from the party, his daughter’s dismay or some other factor that tipped Trump into disavowing the chant. But a central element in these kinds of stories about Trump’s course corrections continues to be his daughter.
Other things Ivanka Trump has reportedly urged her father to do from behind the scenes? To halt a planned LGBT rights rollback, to issue a strong statement about anti-Semitism after the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, to stop the family separation policy at the border and even to withdraw Brett M. Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination amid accusations of decades-old sexual misconduct.
The Times’s Michael Barbaro summarized it:
This isn’t to cast doubt on the idea that these conversations actually happened. An adviser’s role is generally to advise privately. We shouldn’t expect an adviser or a president’s daughter to speak out publicly every time they disagree with the commander in chief.
But what is worth emphasizing is that Trump is repeatedly going too far for his own daughter — and the frequent distancing of her from what he did, even privately, is remarkable. It would be more dramatic if she were to state these things publicly, sure, but the practical impact is the same. When even she reportedly doesn’t trust him to respond appropriately to a massacre at a synagogue, that’s saying a lot. When she and others have to intervene to halt the predictable progression of a racist political attack, things are pretty badly off the rails. The veil of anonymity doesn’t change that.
What’s also going to be interesting to watch is whether the president continues to heed her reported advice. What happens when he renews his attacks on Omar at the next rally, and some supporters resurrect the “send her back” chants? Trump hasn’t exactly shown a great desire to rein in his crowds — especially when they are acting on his own unmistakable cues.
Generally speaking, we hear about it when Ivanka Trump’s advice is heeded — often after an action has already been taken. There’s no guarantee that will continue to be the case here. Trump has already downplayed the severity of the “send her back” chants, and if he had to be persuaded to say he disagreed with them, that shows you what he really thinks. That’s really the lesson of Ivanka Trump’s repeated, reported interventions.