During the presidential transition period, Donald Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York, which wouldn't have been especially notable were it not for Ivanka Trump's participation
in the discussion. The Republican's daughter, at the time, said she intended to have no role in the Trump administration, so why was she there?We learned soon after that Ivanka Trump was working on a licensing deal in Japan
, as part of a deal with a bank owned by the Japanese government, when she sat in on a meeting with Japan's prime minister.This quickly became an obvious example of Team Trump's conflict-of-interest troubles, which Trump himself showed little interest in addressing. Four months later, the Associated Press has highlighted a related story
that's just as jarring.
On April 6, Ivanka Trump's company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world's second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago.The scenario underscores how difficult it is for Trump, who has tried to distance herself from the brand that bears her name, to separate business from politics in her new position at the White House.
Let's not lose sight of the timeline here: we learned in late March that Ivanka Trump, after having said the opposite, has joined
her father's White House team. Though she won't receive a paycheck, Trump's daughter will have an office in the West Wing and will serve as an assistant to the president.It was a week later when White House Employee Ivanka Trump's company won approval in China for several new trademarks, literally the same day she sat down for dinner with the Chinese president.In case this isn't painfully obvious, there's no precedent for anything like this in the American tradition. If Hillary Clinton had won the election, and Chelsea Clinton were engaged in similar activities, it's a safe bet the number of congressional hearings would be overwhelming.The AP report
Using the prestige of government service to build a brand is not illegal. But criminal conflict of interest law prohibits federal officials, like Trump and her husband, from participating in government matters that could impact their own financial interest or that of their spouse. Some argue that the more her business broadens its scope, the more it threatens to encroach on the ability of two trusted advisers to deliver credible counsel to the president on core issues like trade, intellectual property, and the value of the Chinese currency."Put the business on hold and stop trying to get trademarks while you're in government," advised Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush. [...]"Ivanka has so many China ties and conflicts, yet she and Jared appear deeply involved in China contacts and policy. I would never have allowed it," said Norman Eisen, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under Barack Obama. "For their own sake, and the country's, Ivanka and Jared should consider stepping away from China matters."
They're not stepping away. Jared Kushner, Ivanka's husband and the president's son-in-law, recently oversaw preparations for Xi Jinping's visit to Trump's private membership club in Florida.It's worth emphasizing that just as Donald Trump does not oversee management of the private-sector ventures he owns, Ivanka Trump is not managing her business, transferring control to a family-run trust.That's not even close, however, to divesting or creating some kind of independent firewall.The New York Times reports
, meanwhile, that the president's daughter and her husband "both have seats at the table at any meeting they choose to attend, join lunches with foreign leaders and enjoy 'walk-in privileges' to the Oval Office." With Stephen Bannon marginalized, the article added, "Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have emerged as President Trump's most important advisers, at least for now."