News & Politics

With Ivanka Trump’s New West Wing Job, We Now Have Government by Javanka

Photograph by Flickr user Michael Vadon.

Ivanka Trump‘s new role in her father’s White House will come with an official title and oath of office after all. Trump will become an “assistant to the president,” the New York Times reported Wednesday afternoon, a position for which she will receive a West Wing office and a security clearance.

The White House hopes formalizing Trump’s role—which was originally designed as an unofficial volunteer position—will persuade ethics watchdogs and other critics to back down from criticism of the President’s elder daughter stepping up her participation in her father’s government. Since last November’s election, Trump has been a regular participant in her father’s meetings with business leaders, members of Congress, and foreign heads of government, all without any kind of job title or official ambit. Trump saying she’ll comport to the same standards to which all other federal workers are held sounds nice, but in reality it does little to diminish the unease from an administration that’s trying to run the government like a family business.

“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,” Trump said in a statement released to the Times.

That’s a nice platitude that the White House will surely use to burnish its claims about ethics and transparency. But it also obviates just how cloistered and hermetic the Trump Administration is, underlined by the ever-increasing portfolios of Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the President. Then again, it’s always been headed in this direction.

How Trump’s specific responsibilities will play out is still murky. She has participated in events with women business owners and during the 2016 campaign proposed a child-care tax credit that analysts found would be deeply regressive. She’s also expressed interest in climate change, though the White House’s actions this week suggest she hasn’t made much headway. Meanwhile, Kushner, a former real-estate and newspaper executive, is tasked with many duties, including brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians, leading an effort to “innovate” the federal bureaucracy, and—as of this week—solving the opioid-addiction crisis.

President Donald Trump still has plenty of other non-familial advisers in high places, but with the growing responsibilities of his daughter and son-in-law, the White House increasingly looks like the boardroom set of The Apprentice. It fits perfectly with the prediction Trump biographer Tim O’Brien made in early January, that Ivanka Trump and Kushner are “going to have the final say on everything.”

The Trumps are famous for their prodigious marketing. Just think of it as “Government,” by Javanka.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.