DES MOINES, Iowa — With Ivanka Trump, the typically minor role of a first daughter could get a major makeover.
She was a key player in her father’s winning campaign, and people are closely watching the next moves by President-elect Donald Trump’s 35-year-old daughter.
She’s attended her father’s transition meetings with high-profile figures, including the Japanese prime minister and technology leaders, and has indicated her interest in working on policy issues such as child care.
The Trump Organization executive vice president also owns her own company that sells clothes and jewelry. While three of Donald Trump’s adult children are viewed as close advisers, he often highlights Ivanka and has made clear that he’d love to have her with him when he moves into the White House.
It’s not clear whether that would be in a formal position. But Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway suggested this past week that there may be an exception to anti-nepotism laws for Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who runs a real estate and construction business.
Previous first daughters have played a social role in the White House.
During Harry Truman’s presidency, when his wife, Bess, was home in Missouri, their daughter Margaret would play hostess. But it would be “unprecedented” for Ivanka Trump to serve as a close adviser, said Katherine Jellison, who heads the history department at Ohio University.
“If there was ever a first daughter who played such a close advisory role to her dad, she really kept it under cover,” Jellison said.
What we know so far about Ivanka Trump:
With the Trump family, everything comes back to the vast family business empire.
Ivanka Trump, one of Donald Trump’s three children with his first wife, Ivana, is an executive vice president of the business along with brothers Donald Jr., 38, and Eric, 32. Just how the president-elect will handle his business interests remains unclear. Trump has said he will turn management over to his sons and executives.
Ivanka Trump has her own business to consider as well. She recently drew criticism after her company promoted a $10,800 bracelet she wore during a “60 Minutes” interview on CBS. The spokeswoman for the company later apologized.
Since then, Ivanka Trump has sought to put some distance between herself and her fashion business. A letter posted on her website said that she would separate her social media accounts from her company’s.
But questions continue to come up. Earlier this month, Eric Trump offered a “Private Coffee with Ivanka Trump in NYC” on a charity fundraising website. But after drawing high bids — and a New York Times story — the auction appeared to have been removed from the website Friday. The Trump organization did not respond to a request for more details.
The White House
Trump’s team says no official decision has been made about Ivanka Trump’s role, and she was not made available for an interview for this story.
But the president-elect has made his wishes known.
“I think we’ll have to see how the laws read. I would love to be able to have them involved,” Trump said on Fox News of Ivanka Trump and her husband.
Congress passed an anti-nepotism law in 1967 that prohibits the president from appointing a family member to work in an office or agency the president oversees. But Conway said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the law has “an exception if you want to work in the West Wing, because the president is able to appoint his own staff.”
Still, Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, said: “I don’t believe that this statue exempts the White House.” He said Conway’s interpretation would be reasonable policy because it would bring family members under conflict of interest rules, but added “I’m just not convinced that’s what the statute says.”
While much about Ivanka Trump’s future role is murky, her policy interests are quite clear.
Throughout the campaign she highlighted her interest in issues like child care, pay equity and maternity leave. Her father mentioned those issues rarely.
Ivanka Trump met with a group of Republican congresswomen on these issues in September. Since the election, she has reached out to members of Congress to continue the conversation, according to Sarah Chamberlain, the president and CEO of Republican Main Street Partnership, who said she has not heard from the future first daughter.
Republican consultant Katie Packer, who opposed Donald Trump, said she was welcoming “the spotlight that Ivanka Trump is going to put on these issues.” But Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director MomsRising, an advocacy group for women and families, said she was concerned that the president-elect’s conservative Cabinet picks don’t share those interests.
“Ivanka Trump is right that child care and paid family leave are national emergencies, but she was not elected to be president of the United States of America and her dad, who was, has taken the opposite approach,” Rowe-Finkbeiner said.
White House hostess
Throughout the campaign, Ivanka Trump played a more prominent role than Trump’s third wife, Melania, who has focused her attention on 10-year-old son Barron.
Donald Trump said last month that Melania and Barron Trump would not move from New York to the White House until the end of the school year. She could still come in for major events, but there is historical precedent for a daughter or sister to step in and shoulder some of the social responsibilities.
Since the election, Melania Trump has kept a low profile while Ivanka Trump has been a regular fixture at Trump Tower in New York. This past week she appeared in a photo with Kanye West.