Ivanka Trump could benefit from a clean slate
Some of her efforts have been largely overshadowed by other news
The White House was in full reset mode Monday — former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly was sworn in as chief of staff at 9:30 a.m. ET, and by mid-afternoon, communications director Anthony Scaramucci was ousted just days after he joined the Trump team.
But another top aide to the President was working on a quiet reset of her own. After a summer of bruising headlines for both her and her husband around the Paris climate agreement, the President’s tweets on transgender members of the military and the Russia probe, Ivanka Trump was by her father’s side, present at Kelly’s swearing-in, a Cabinet meeting, and later, a Medal of Honor ceremony.
Monday’s transitions could provide a clean slate: a new chief of staff and the resulting restructuring could benefit the first daughter and presidential adviser with the space and opportunity to refocus. Despite the noise from media coverage and critics – and other distractions from her own initiatives – during the first months of her time in Washington, Ivanka Trump is pushing forward with her West Wing portfolio.
Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, who is also a top White House aide, were supportive of both personnel decisions, according to a White House official.
The couple “have a lot of admiration and respect for (Kelly) and his ability to professionalize the West Wing and are eager to follow his lead,” the official said.
“They want this to work,” the official said, reiterating that sentiment later in the day upon news of Scaramucci’s dismissal.
Ivanka Trump called Kelly “a true American hero” in a tweet Monday: “Looking forward to serving alongside John Kelly as we work for the American people,” she wrote.
Ivanka Trump, who is expected to appear at multiple public events this week, isn’t exactly doing anything different than before.
“She continues to be focused on the issues in her portfolio and serving the President,” a White House official said.
Trump has previously lamented the “viciousness” of the media covering her father’s presidency, referring to the growing “cloud” of distractions resulting from the Russia probe.
“It is hard. And there is a level of viciousness that I was not expecting. I was not expecting the intensity of this experience, but this isn’t supposed to be easy. My father and this administration intends to be transformative, and we want to do big, bold things and we’re looking to change the status quo. So I didn’t expect it to be easy. I think some of the distractions and some of the ferocity was — I was a little blindsided by on a personal level,” she told Fox News in a June interview.
But the West Wing shakeup – if it is successful in minimizing damaging leaks and other harmful distractions – presents Trump with the opportunity to turn over a new leaf and set a new narrative focused on her specific priorities and work.
The first daughter has been between a rock and a hard place since formally joining the administration earlier this year: Some Republicans see her as a threat to the President’s conservative agenda while some Democrats say she did little to minimize expectations set in media narratives throughout the campaign and transition that she would be a moderating force for her father on social issues.
She sent a subtle message to the critics on Monday, posting a photo of dozens of pieces of fan mail on Instagram.
“Grateful to receive these thoughtful letters. Thank you for sharing your kind words! It is an honor and privilege to serve our great country,” she captioned the photo of handwritten notes and drawings all spread out.
The first daughter and assistant to the President is subject to an enormous amount of scrutiny, deserved or not, and this summer’s headlines have not been generous: She faced backlash from left-leaning critics in June when her father announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. She advocated on behalf of remaining the Paris pact until the very end.
What Ivanka Trump lacks in governmental experience, she makes up for with the key 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 ultimately shape her father’s positions is largely unknown. He’ll listen to his daughter and other advisers, but ultimately, he makes the decision.
“My father trusts me to be an honest broker,” Trump told The Washington Post in a recent interview. “I don’t have a hidden agenda. I have a very clear agenda. He knows exactly where I stand and I express why I care. There’s no secrecy about it.”
Some of her other efforts have been largely overshadowed by other news. The White House’s “Workforce Development Week,” which she helped spearhead, coincided with the tragic congressional baseball practice shooting that left Republican Rep. Steve Scalise seriously injured. The G-20 Summit rollout of the women’s entrepreneurship facility she helped create alongside the World Bank came the same weekend that the President met face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and reports surfaced that her brother, Donald Trump Jr., met with a woman described to him in emails as a “Russian government attorney” during the 2016 campaign.
More negative headlines piled up as the summer moved on and her husband, who said himself he is “not a person who has sought the spotlight,” was called to testify before Congress amid the growing probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Kushner sought to put any questions related to the Russia probe behind him, providing closed testimony before the Senate and House intelligence committees and delivering a rare statement before the press outside the West Wing.
And last Wednesday, additional negative coverage came as the President announced on Twitter that he was reinstating a ban on transgender individuals from serving “in any capacity” in the US armed forces.
His daughter had come out in support of the LGBTQ community at the beginning of Pride Month.
“I am proud to support my LGBTQ friends and the LGBTQ Americans who have made immense contributions to our society and economy,” she wrote in June.
Trump reportedly found out about the President’s transgender military ban for the first time when she saw his tweets on the matter, again indicating that she can advise, but the President decides.
That development fed a new round of critical headlines, including this from Vogue: “Look, It’s Time to Collectively and Officially Give Up on Ivanka Trump.”
One clear signal she and Kushner still have her father’s ear: the installation of retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly as chief of staff and removal of Reince Priebus.
The new structure means the couple has a new boss. All White House staff now report to the new chief of staff, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at Monday’s press briefing.
Pressed on whether that includes staffers like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Sanders said, “That includes everybody at the White House.”
Moving forward, Ivanka Trump continues to work on her initiatives, including paid family leave, a childcare tax credit, workforce development, ending human trafficking, and promoting education for science technology, engineering and math, among other initiatives.
Making the pitch on paid family leave is a key priority for Trump in the coming weeks. The provision in the White House’s proposed budget, which was released in late May, allocates six weeks for new mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents. The proposal allows states to establish their own family leave programs paid for by reforms to the unemployment insurance system.
Trump penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last month advocating on its behalf, arguing that paid family leave will “have an especially positive effect for women” and will be critical in “solving the persistent gender and minority pay gap that exists in part because of prolonged periods away from the workforce and challenges with re-entry.”
She will continue to meet with lawmakers, a mix of House members and Senators. Trump met with Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in May and she discussed the issue with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in June. She also met with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and a group of congressional Republicans in late June to discuss a series of more general issues. She will attend a White House event on small businesses Tuesday afternoon.
But the administration’s proposal faces an uphill battle in Congress, and the White House has acknowledged as much.
“We wanted to take the initiative to present a strong proposal in our budget as a stake in the ground. While we are pleasantly surprised by the progress we are making in building a coalition and it is a priority issue, we are realistic about the calendar,” the administration official said. “We know how hard it is going to be and that for all the talk on the issue, nobody has been able to get it done before but we are committed to it and the priority now is to build a coalition.”
Trump continues her work on other issues, as well. Last week, she traveled to New York to have lunch with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, where the two discussed women’s economic empowerment and workforce development.
She was on hand in the East Room as the administration announced a $10 billion initial investment by Foxconn in Wisconsin.
She also joined Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to highlight summer reading and STEM at an event with young women at the American History Museum last week. On a related personal front, Trump is leading by example, taking a summer coding class with daughter Arabella, 6.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Athena Jones contributed to this report.