How first daughter Ivanka Trump's role at the White House has grown

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
How first daughter Ivanka Trump's role at the White House has grown
Ivanka Trump posted this photo on Twitter with this caption: "A great discussion with two world leaders about the importance of women having a seat at the table!" Feb. 13, 2017.

President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump has been by her father's side since he took office, joining him on a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and a tour of the Boeing plant in South Carolina, among other trips.

But with Monday's announcement that she'll have her own seat in the White House - she is getting an office in the West Wing as well as other upgrades - her role as first daughter is heading into unprecedented territory.

She has acknowledged as much, saying in a statement, "While there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president, I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees."

The news that Ivanka Trump, 35, is being given a West Wing office, increased security clearance and a government-issued communications device was met with shock by some experts.

"There really is no precedent for this. I do not have any knowledge of a similar arrangement of an individual with no formal title with an office and clearance. But like many things in the administration, they are breaking new ground," said Anita McBride, a former assistant to President George W. Bush and chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.

Kathleen Clark, an ethics expert and a professor at Washington University, described the arrangement as "outrageous."

"This is extremely troubling because the White House seems to be pretending that it can treat somebody as a government employee - give them an office and responsibilities - and not be bound by government ethics standards," she said.

"They assert that she will voluntarily comply with government ethics standards. That means they think she doesn't have to comply," Clark continued.

She described the move as "skillful" erosion of government ethics standards that could pave the way for arrangements in which other informal advisers can use government access and inside information to enrich themselves without the consequences that would apply to government employees.

"It's brilliant on their part because I think the public may perceive this as not a big deal because her husband has already been appointed," Clark said, referring to Jared Kushner. "This is miles away from the Jared Kushner arrangement, because he's bound by the ethics rules and he can be held accountable."

While the latest announcement is a sign of Ivanka Trump's growing involvement in the administration, she is no stranger to the White House. She has been present for family events - like the various inauguration celebrations - as well as closed-door meetings and sit-downs with foreign leaders.

In February she met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House, where they were part of a roundtable discussion on female entrepreneurs, and she met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House last week, Ivanka Trump was seated right beside her.

Ivanka Trump's involvement in business roundtable discussions could be attributed to her business background at her namesake fashion label and her father's real estate empire, but she has also had a say in other causes that she is passionate about. When Donald Trump held a listening session about domestic and international human trafficking on Feb. 23, he started his remarks by thanking Ivanka Trump and then-senior counselor for economic initiatives Dina Powell "for working so hard to set this up."

"As far as [Ivanka Trump's] impact thus far, she has had time to observe and learn the way the White House works and has identified where she can make the most difference and use her convening authority and have influence on issues that not only she cares about but that she has encouraged her father to focus on as well," McBride told ABC News.

"[Donald Trump] clearly wants her to be more involved in those areas, and that sends a signal to the administration that the president cares about it too - which is the criteria most important to any impact and success she will have as the administration moves forward."

One thing that the latest announcement excluded is a formal title. In spite of her involvement in meetings and events to date, she has had no formal title in the administration, unlike her husband, who is a senior adviser to the president.

"The more formal [her role] is, the less powerful it is," said ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts. "She's much more powerful as an adviser without a portfolio, where she can credibly say, 'I'm just there to be my dad's daughter and give him advice.'"

Roberts, who has written multiple books about the role of women in the development of the United States and in previous administrations, said that Ivanka Trump isn't the first first daughter to play a role in her father's administration but that her role may be the largest yet. Roberts cited President James Monroe's daughter Eliza Monroe Hay as a first daughter who had a public role in her father's administration, due largely to her mother's frail health.

"She was really the first lady, and she totally irritated everyone in town," Roberts said of Eliza Monroe Hay.

There have been first ladies who played an advisory role for their husband during their administration, Roberts said, "but I can't think of any other time that a White House daughter did this."

"There have been first daughters who have played East Wing roles," Roberts said, referring to the area of the White House with offices for the first lady. "[Ivanka Trump is] playing a West Wing role."

Perhaps most concerning of all is the lack of a formal title, Roberts said, adding, "She is wise to say she will abide by government rules, but there's no real way of checking."

ABC News' Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.

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