Absent from Trump’s Paris announcement: Ivanka Trump

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Trump announced his decision to withdraw from Paris agreement Thursday

Ivanka Trump sought to remain in the pact

Washington CNN  — 

President Donald Trump announced Thursday he will pull out of the Paris climate agreement, something his daughter and top adviser, Ivanka Trump, opposed.

“We’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate and see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” Trump said Thursday afternoon. “And if we can, that’s great.”

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both top advisers to the President, were not present during the Rose Garden ceremony. They went to synagogue in the morning for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Ivanka Trump went home to observe the holiday with her kids, as she did Wednesday. Kushner was in the White House working.

Ivanka Trump advocated on behalf of the Paris pact until the very end, according to an administration official. While the final result is technically a loss, the President’s decision to withdraw over three years allows him the flexibility to change course with renegotiated terms.

But the decision to use the withdrawal mechanism written into the accord, rather than removing the US entirely from the treaty, could signal that he’s still listening to the first daughter, who has long had his ear.

The actual withdrawal from the Paris agreement would take place on November 4, 2020, according to a Paris negotiator, four years after the deal went into force on November 4, 2016. That is one day after the 2020 election on November 3, meaning it’s possible it won’t happen at all if Trump loses his re-election bid.

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The decider

Ivanka Trump has long been a trusted adviser to her father, from her real estate career at the Trump Organization to his 2016 campaign, and now, in the West Wing. She has said she intends to act as a moderating force in the administration, serving as the President’s eyes and ears on a variety of topics.

Her critics say she hasn’t had any tangible successes given her proximity to the world’s most powerful man – and she’s done little to minimize expectations that she would be that moderating influence.

What Ivanka Trump lacks in governmental experience, she makes up for with the key and rare asset of knowing her father, how he thinks, and how he makes decisions better than almost anyone. The first daughter has noted her conversations with her father happen behind the scenes – and her ability to shape her father’s positions is largely unknown.

But Trump’s decision to leave the agreement signaled that at the end of the day, whatever influence she may have, he’ll listen, but he’s the decider.

“Obviously, Jared and Ivanka don’t have as much pull as we think,” said a source close to the administration on Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.

Since formally taking a role as special assistant in the administration in late March, the President’s eldest daughter has leaned into advocacy on a portfolio of largely noncontroversial issues, including women’s economic empowerment, combating human trafficking and paid family leave, a topic she had success with last week as the administration released a budget that included paid leave provisions for new mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents.

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The climate deal

Yet she also put eggs in a basket with less potential for success: climate change. Trump has not spoken publicly about the issue or outlined any specific initiatives on behalf of the administration, but during the transition, a source close to her told Politico she wanted to make climate change “one of her signature issues.”

The report cast her as a would-be “climate czar,” setting high expectations on this topic.

In February, leaks to The Wall Street Journal did little to minimize those expectations, which suggested Ivanka Trump and her husband persuaded the President to strike language critical of the climate deal from a draft of an executive order.

Recognizing she faced an uphill battle – her father frequently railed against the Paris deal on the campaign trail – she set to arm the President with information. He is known to listen to a variety of voices and perspectives before making decisions, and his daughter ran point.

She was very involved in the decision process, and took a proactive role in shepherding those perspectives as he made up his mind.

“The President’s inclination was to pull out” of the agreement, per the administration official, “And she helped set up a process to ensure that he heard from all sides, both inside and outside the government.” Those meetings included EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, as well as climate change activists like actor Leonardo DiCaprio and former vice president Al Gore, whom the President met with during the transition and spoke with again earlier this month.

Kushner was said to be more open to leaving the agreement, and felt the agreement’s standards didn’t work for the US economy.

But after months of discussion, Trump’s mind was not changed.

The President was sure he needed to begin the withdrawal process, and there was no talking to him about it, per a source close to Trump. He was convinced the deal would be bad for the US, believing that the US is a “laughing stock” for participating in this agreement. He also wants to negotiated a better deal, which he could not do without pulling out, the source said.

Ivanka’s influence

In an April interview with CBS News, Ivanka Trump said she expresses herself with “total candor” on issues where she disagrees with her father, but declined to get into specifics.

“I wasn’t elected by the American people to be president. My father is gonna do a tremendous job. And I wanna help him do that. But I don’t think that it will make me a more effective advocate to constantly articulate every issue publicly where I disagree. And that’s OK,” she said.

Trump suggested that ultimately, her influence on her father may not be obvious to outside observers.

“That means that I’ll take hits from some critics who say that I should take to the street. And then other people will in the long-term respect where I get to. But I think most of the impact I have, over time most people will not actually know about.”

The decision comes as her husband faces intensifying scrutiny for his contacts with Russian officials. Back at the White House this week, the couple is keeping their heads down, and it’s “business as usual,” according to the administration official.

The official said the two share a “healthy understanding that there’s attention on you when you’re at this level,” and White House staff is “following their lead and focusing on their work.”

CNN’s Sara Murray, Dana Bash, Elise Labott, Kevin Liptak and Dan Merica contributed to the report.