Ivanka Trump had been an “informal advisor” to the President since his term started back in January. However, there has been criticism pointing out that in an unofficial capacity, Ivanka was not subject to the ethical rules mandated for government employees, especially when it came to her business holdings. She had stated she would be voluntarily complying with everything, but apparently the criticism became too much.
Report from the New York Times:
Ivanka Trump, the elder daughter of President Trump, is becoming an official government employee, joining her husband, Jared Kushner, in serving as an unpaid adviser to her father in the White House.
The announcement on Wednesday amounts to the formal recognition of the value Mr. Trump places on the judgment and loyalty of both his daughter and his son-in-law. While relying on family members for advice is hardly unusual for a president, giving them a formal role has few precedents.
Ms. Trump, 35, will be an assistant to the president; Mr. Kushner, 36, has the title of senior adviser.
When questions were raised about whether Mr. Kushner’s appointment violated federal anti-nepotism laws, the Justice Department wrote a memo in January concluding that the rules did not apply to the White House.
Ms. Trump said last week that she planned on serving as an informal adviser to her father, and she already has an office in the West Wing — upstairs from her husband’s. She was also in the process of receiving government-issued security clearance and communications devices. But that plan had prompted criticism from ethics experts, who had said it would allow her to avoid financial disclosure rules.
“This arrangement appears designed to allow Ms. Trump to avoid the ethics, conflict-of-interest and other rules that apply to White House employees,” Norman L. Eisen and Richard W. Painter, White House ethics lawyers for Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, respectively, wrote in a letter to Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel.
They had argued that Ms. Trump’s use of those resources had made her a federal employee in all but name, and they had called on the administration to officially acknowledge her as a staff member.
“I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules, and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House Office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees,” Ms. Trump said in a statement on Wednesday.
This move in making her an official federal employee won’t stem all the concerns over nepotism, but it does say to me that the Trumps acknowledge that it probably looks bad from the outside. Ivanka is taking no salary in this position as a hedge against further nepotism charges, and it looks like the law is on their side, though the legal waters remain a little murky.
I was trying to think about a parallel in modern times, but perhaps the closest we came to the children of a president having any influence over their father was back during the George H. W. Bush administration from 1988 to 1992. Here’s a snippet on Jeb Bush’s activities advising his father in the White House:
Bush volunteered for his father’s campaigns in 1980 and 1988. During the 1980 campaign, Bush worked as an unpaid volunteer, and expressed great admiration for his father. In the mid-1980s, Bush got his start in Florida politics as the Chairman of the Dade County Republican Party. Dade County played an important role in the 1986 election of Bob Martinez to the Governor’s office. In return, Martinez appointed Bush as Florida’s Secretary of Commerce. He served in that role in 1987 and 1988, before resigning to work on his father’s presidential campaign.
Bush frequently communicated with his father’s staff from 1981 through 1992. The younger Bush recommended Dexter Lehtinen for the post of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and set up a meeting between the Bush Administration and Motorola. He also advocated for Cuban exiles living in South Florida, and supported the Cuban embargo. In 1990, Bush urged his father to pardon Orlando Bosch, a Cuban exile who had been convicted of firing a rocket into a Polish ship which was on passage to Cuba. Bosch was released from prison and granted residency in the U.S. [Emphasis added]
The relationship between Jeb Bush and his father during the presidential years seemed to be very informal, perhaps more like a father-son relationship than a formal adviser. The difference between then and now seems to be that Ivanka will actually hold a title, and an office in the White House out of which she’ll be working on her father’s behalf.
I’m sure we have not heard the end of this story yet as the criticism from Democrats, and some Republicans, will continue.