Ivanka Trump’s company scored a big victory in China this month, on the same day that she dined at Mar-a-Lago with the president of China and his wife in her role as first daughter.
The victory? Trump’s company won the Chinese government’s preliminary approval for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell the brand’s jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy.
The dinner supposedly had nothing to do with Trump’s business, however. It featured steak, fish, and included her father, President Trump.
The coincidental timing of these two events highlights the intersecting interests between Trump’s eponymous brand of women’s clothing and accessories and her role as a top adviser to the president, the AP reports.
“Put the business on hold and stop trying to get trademarks while you’re in government,” Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, told the AP in a message directed to Trump.
Trump says that she has stepped back from any operational role within her company, so that she could focus on her position in the White House.
But she still owns her business, and has vested interests in the value of the Trump name, according to The New York Times.
“She views her role partly as guardian of the family reputation and has fretted during and since the campaign about the long-term damage to the family business’s image that her father’s political career could cause,” the Times reported this weekend.
In that role, she and her husband, Jared Kushner, have pushed to marginalize Steve Bannon, another top Trump aide. That move was motivated by concerns for the Trump family brand, according to the Times.
“Several administration officials and people close to the family said the couple’s move against Mr. Bannon was motivated less by interest in shaping any particular policy than by addressing what they view as an embarrassing string of failures that may damage her father personally, as well as the Trump family brand,” The Times wrote.
There’s nothing illegal about using political prestige to support a brand, but there are criminal conflict of interest laws that specifically bar public officials from participating in government proceedings that could benefit them financially, as the AP points out.