In a reassessment of Ivanka’s performance in the White House, following the president’s controversial and abrupt decision to ban transgenders from the military last week, Politico reporters Annie Karni and Eliana Johnson caught up with a few of the first daughter’s old friends to gauge how she is handling the tight rope of her father’s politics and her personal goals.
To be certain, Trump’s transgender ban was problematic for Ivanka, who less than a month before tweeted in honor 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.”
But, in terms of blaming her for not doing enough to influence her father’s decision-making on the matter, onlookers who know Ivanka say that’s not entirely fair. While her socially liberal-oriented goals are a breath of fresh air for moderate Republican supporters, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“She’s in there doing what she can,” said R. Couri Hay, a publicist and longtime friend of the Trump family. “It’s unrealistic, unfair and cruel to expect her to change climate policy and pre-K and women’s issues in six months.”
But other accounts of Ivanka’s White House standing, drawing on the experience of the relationship between her and her father, suggest she never could’ve been expected to influence the president’s actions to that great of an extent.
“I know her well enough to know her relationship with her father, which is that she will never, ever, go against the grain,” said one former fashion-world friend who has socialized with Ivanka for years but has not spoken to her since she moved to Washington.
Whether it’s fair or not, those who expected a liberalizing effect stemming from Ivanka and Jared Kushner’s presence – amongst hardcore conservatives such as Steve Bannon and Republican leaders in Congress – have been disappointed.
“Actions speak louder than words,” said Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the nonprofit Human Rights Campaign. “Either Ivanka is ineffective in her advocacy within the building, or her voice doesn’t matter to the president as much as she hopes it does.”
Ivanka has tried to temper the expectation that she will be able to successfully imprint her progressive worldview into tangible policy initiatives that have the president’s blessing, noting she must maintain her credibility among Republican supporters and can’t go “super-lib.”
This has been Ivanka’s struggle for a while, having a sophisticated, ideological foundation along with all the barriers to political freedom that come with bearing the Trump name. This was the case for her partner for life and husband, Jared Kushner, as well.
One well-known socialite quoted in the Politico article put it succinctly in describing the pair’s budding political careers: “Everyone knew that Jared’s father was a felon and her father was a buffoon, but you looked past that because they stood on their own two feet and were sophisticated and presentable. They were accepted despite their parents. Now, there’s no separating the two.”
But in the end, despite her personal ambition, Ivanka has never forgotten that she’s her father’s daughter, and has naturally sought his approval.
Another close friend of the family, who has known Ivanka Trump her entire life, said: “She wanted to be the apple of her father’s eye. There’s no question, she worked hard to be the perfect image her father wanted.”
And upon a detailed examination of how the transgender ban went down, the limits to Ivanka’s influence are made abundantly clear. The need for a change regarding the Pentagon’s funding of gender alignment surgery for its transgender servicemen derived from two of the House’s most conservative members: North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows and the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Jim Jordan.
After their own amendment to the House appropriations bill that stripped Pentagon funding for the surgery failed, and back channels to Department of Defense (DOD) head James Mattis lead nowhere, the duo made straight for the White House. Inside the Trump administration offices, the issue was so closely held that, in addition to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, a Catholic evangelical with a history of pushing religious liberty policies, had no inkling of what was underway. Meadows and Jordan leveraged the president by noting they had corralled a group of House conservatives ready to sink the appropriations bill anyway, should their attempts to solve the funding issue fail.
“They were frustrated with Mattis and the DOD, and the White House was sympathetic to them on the policy,” said a senior White House aide.
Thus, it can be seen, in instances of true political hardball, there is little one member of Trump’s executive team can do, even if it is his daughter.
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