- Gary Cameron/Reuters
Ivanka Trump will have her own office on the second floor of the West Wing, Politico reported on Monday. In addition to an office, Ivanka will also receive security clearance and government-issued communications devices this week.
However, she will not be an official government employee. Ivanka will not be sworn in, she will not have an official title or position, and she won’t receive a salary, her attorney, Jamie Gorelick, told Politico. She will function as President Trump’s “eyes and ears,” her attorney said.
Gorelick did concede that Ivanka’s elevation to the new role raises some ethical questions concerning her business interests. While she divested of significant assets, she retains ownership of her fashion and jewelry brand, though she stepped down before Trump assumed office.
“The one thing I would like to be clear on: we don’t believe it eliminates conflicts in every way,” Gorelick said. “She has the conflicts that derive from the ownership of this brand. We’re trying to minimize those to the extent possible.”
Gorelick told Politico that Ivanka cannot sell her business because the buyer would be able to use her name, which could raise further ethical concerns. So instead, her lawyer said she will distance herself “as much as possible” from her brand and place her interests in a trust.
It will not, however, be a blind trust. Instead, her brother- and sister-in-law Josh Kusher and Nicole Meyer will control it. Josh Kushner’s brother and Ivanka’s husband, Jared, is a senior adviser to President Trump. Politico reports that though her brother-in-law and sister-in-law will control the trust, they will “be prohibited from entering the brand into any agreements with foreign countries or agencies.”
And though the first daughter has appointed Abigail Klem to be president of her brand, Ivanka will still have veto power over any deals that are “unacceptable from an ethics perspective.”
That’s not the only problem.
“There’s quite a bit of evidence about tribalism in this administration, where there’s a very tight inner circle of family loyalists – like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner – who don’t have the type of experiences” typical of presidential advisers, said Jon D. Michaels, an expert on government, national security law, and constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law.
“And this nebulous ground we’re on where Ivanka Trump is kind of working for the government and kind of not [because she will not be an official government employee] is troubling,” Michaels told Business Insider.
Because Ivanka will not be a government employee in any official capacity, she will not legally be subject to the same ethical constraints and obligations, which she noted when news of her latest role in the White House broke.
“I will continue to offer my father my candid advice and counsel, as I have for my entire life,” she said in a statement. “While there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president, I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees.”
“She’s voluntarily submitting to ethics laws,” Michaels said. “What happens when she no longer voluntarily complies?”
This is not the first time that Ivanka Trump’s brand has been ensnared in a grey area when it comes to mixing government business with personal and financial interests.
She is currently the defendant in a lawsuit brought by a San Francisco retailer who alleges that her the Ivanka Trump brand is capitalizing on Trump’s presidency to further its business. Shortly after the election, her company landed in hot water after it promoted a bracelet she wore during an interview on “60 Minutes.”
White House as QVC. It has started. pic.twitter.com/jk0DeQJ9vV
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) November 15, 2016
In July 2016, Ivanka promoted the dress she wore during her speech at the Republican National Convention. The dress sold out soon after she touted it.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) July 22, 2016
Ethics experts say that the steps she has taken – which also include her decision to donate royalties and net proceeds from the release of her book, “Women Who Work,” to charities that focus on women in the workplace – are better than nothing, but that things are complicated by the blatant ethical breaches of her father’s administration.
President Trump’s businesses, which include his luxury hotels and golf courses, still do business with foreign interests, and he has not divested his interests. Instead, he has placed them in a trust controlled by his two sons, who are at the helm of the Trump Organization while their father is in the Oval Office.
Speaking about Ivanka Trump’s move into the White House, ethics expert Norm Eisen, who served under former president Barack Obama, told Politico: “You might be inclined to view this differently and more generously if the White House had shown a stronger commitment to ethics enforcement.”