Ivanka Trump, long a target of criticism for those who see her as the poster child for nepotism and privilege, drew increased scrutiny after accompanying the president over the weekend on his trip to the G20 in Japan and a stop in South Korea. CNN described her as acting as an “unofficial Secretary of State.”
Carrie Cordero, a national security lawyer, blasted the performance Tuesday in an op-ed for the Washington Post. Even by the low standards of President Donald Trump’s administration, in which open corruption and nepotism are commonplace, the first daughter’s role on the trip “broke new ground,” she said.
Among the obvious offenses Cordero listed was Ivanka Trump’s role replacing actual, qualified diplomats in G20 meetings, her humiliating attempts to break into a conversation with British Prime Minister Theresa May that were caught on tape, her joining her father for a visit to the DMZ between North Korea and South Korea, and her appearance alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a visit to the troops at Osan Air Base.
“Ivanka Trump ought to back off,” Cordero wrote. “Americans didn’t elect her, we don’t have any way of holding her accountable and we don’t support her playacting at government.”
Indeed, others have criticized the Trump family for clearly wanting to play the part of American royalty.
The desire may even surpass the pomp and circumstance surrounding the largely impotent British monarch. Cordero speculates she may be angling to promote political ambitions of her own:
If that’s true, then she is using her status as the president’s daughter in a way that no prior adult child of a president has during that parent’s presidency. There is no question, for example, that the Bush name assisted George W.’s and later Jeb’s political name recognition, but neither of them appeared at meetings with world leaders when their father was president. There is no modern historical precedent of an adult child participating in the business of the U.S. government during their parent’s presidency.
Another troubling possibility she noted is that Ivanka could simply be using the opportunity to promote future business ventures. In fact, since neither she nor her husband, Jared Kushner, have fully divested from their companies, they may be profiting off their government service right now. They don’t take salaries at the White House, which just emphasizes the fact that their financial interests extend well beyond — and potentially conflict with — their service to the American people. And, perhaps most troublingly of all, we still don’t know why Ivanka and Kushner were unable to get security clearances on their own, and the president ended up unilaterally approving them.
So in addition to being “embarrassing for our country,” Cordero warned that Ivanka’s role is far from “benign.” She is part of her father’s attempt to bend the processes of the executive branch to his own will with officials who are accountable only to him, not the American people or Congress.
Cordero also dispatched with the weak defense of Ivanka from some who say her critics are sexist:
She has, after all, not one merit-based qualification to be participating in the diplomatic meetings she is attending. There are professional women inside the executive branch and outside government who have spent a lifetime becoming expert in their fields, whether that’s economics, international relations, trade, international law or diplomacy. If the Trump administration’s goal is to give a woman a seat at the table, there is no shortage of women who have the requisite experience and training who have earned their seat.
And as Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio explained in a CNN op-ed, which referred to Ivanka’s performance as part of a “ridiculous show,” there’s nothing new about this behavior from Trump.
“Anyone who followed the clan as I did when it operated a string of businesses, understood that being a Trump was the main qualification that Donald Jr., Ivanka, and their brother Eric brought to their positions as top executives in the organization,” D’Antonio explained. “A President operating without many real experts, making every decision by himself, is a problem for the world but it’s just as Donald Trump has always liked it.”