News & Politics

Jared and Ivanka Feel Rejected by Washington. Why Do They Stick Around?

Kushner and Trump in the Rose Garden in July. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Vanity Fair on Monday published a big story summarizing what anyone who’s been following politics for the last seven months has probably concluded: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have not accomplished much since going to work in the White House and, like many beleaguered administration staffers, are having a rough go of adjusting to their new lives in Washington.

But their troubles don’t just stem from their many failures to blunt President Trump‘s coarsest impulses, as they once suggested they would. Rather, Sarah Ellison reports, the President’s daughter and son-in-law feel rejected by the DC establishment types to whom they planned to ingratiate themselves.

“It’s clear that, after an initial period of awe at the sheer power of their positions, Jared and Ivanka have been stung by the vitriol directed at them,” Ellison writes. Later in the article, we learn from an unnamed New York pal that the couple feel that Washington “punctures their self-esteem on a daily basis.”

That’s not how they saw this story going. Javanka—as some called the couple when they moved down here—arrived in January to serve as the most senior advisers to a new President known for relying more on family members and longtime business associates than career political hands. As Donald Trump’s favorite child and her spouse, Ivanka and Jared supposedly had influence on the President that the likes of Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway couldn’t wield. We were told that, as a pair of young, cosmopolitan real-estate scions, Ivanka and Jared would be a “moderating force” on issues like women’s health, environmental policy, and LGBT rights.

Instead, the Trump Administration has been remarkably hostile on those fronts, signing legislation targeting Planned Parenthood and other health providers, pulling the United States out of the Paris climate agreement and overturning piles of Obama-era regulations, and banning transgender individuals from serving in the military.

But beyond the apparent failure of Ivanka’s and Jared’s philosophical mission as presidential counselors, they’ve struggled mightily to impress the longtime swells who often try to court favor with the White House, regardless of which party’s in charge. Two scenes Vanity Fair describes stand out in particular. The first comes at a highfalutin DC dinner party:

 The couple recently attended an off-the-record dinner at the home of Atlantic Media’s owner, David Bradley, the sort of soirée Bradley holds on a regular basis with newsmakers and prominent Washington reporters and columnists. “They were terrible,” one attendee told me.

The second comes at another high-society gathering, but in an anecdote relayed to Ellison by an attendee of the annual convention of media-, tech-, and financial-industry leaders in Sun Valley, Idaho:

The attendee told me that “the chatter was ‘These people are horrible,’ and this and that, but of course, Jared and Ivanka show up and the air-kissing began.” Eric Schmidt, the former C.E.O. of Google and the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, seems to personify this shift. Schmidt was an early adviser on digital strategy for Hillary Clinton’s campaign but has been one of the most public fans of Jared Kushner’s work for the Trump campaign.

In terms of wealth and exclusivity, there’s not much difference between David Bradley‘s drawing room and a business summit in the Rocky Mountains. And there’s little love for Ivanka and Jared’s job performance in either setting. But even the most anti-Trump members of the Sun Valley crowd, like Barry Diller, were willing to give Javanka a pass while publicly bashing the President as “a joke.”

Washington’s elite are less generous, according to Ellison’s reporting. Instead of air kisses when they walk into parties, Ivanka and Jared get skeptical looks from other parents at their six-year-old daughter’s school. Instead of going to synagogue every Friday night, as they did when they lived in New York, the couple makes only occasional appearances at a Modern Orthodox congregation near their Kalorama house. One could almost say they’re not solely responsible for these feelings of isolation they appear to be lamenting in Vanity Fair.

A lot of it does seem self-inflicted, though. The Trumpians have a documented habit of often socializing with one another in comfortable fortresses like the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. Multiple cabinet members have take up extended residencies there, and its lobby steakhouse is where you’re most likely to spot a high-ranking Administration official in the wild. Jared and Ivanka also seem to have few close friends their age, save perhaps Reed Cordish, another real-estate scion who’s now working on Kushner’s government-reorganization project.

Yet even by DC society’s standards, Javanka’s rejection also seems unusually swift. It’s true the President (and parent) they serve is historically unpopular and has distinguished himself with impulsive policy decisions, unhinged foreign-policy threats, and claims of moral equivalency between white supremacists and anti-racist protesters. But Washington’s fancy set usually has no problem stomaching unsavory figures. Guys like Henry Kissinger, Lanny Davis, Paul Wolfowitz, and Newt Gingrich still flutter around town decades after leaving their marks. It’s almost unfair that Ivanka and Jared didn’t even get a chance to blend in.

But nobody needs to be miserable in DC forever. The Vanity Fair story hints that Ivanka and Jared are already looking for a way out, and why shouldn’t they be? The Trump presidency is flailing, the investigation into the 2016 campaign’s alleged dealings is swirling (sometimes around Kushner), and they’ve clearly failed in their claimed attempts to tame the President’s agenda. Meanwhile, there’s a big, spectacular penthouse unit on Park Avenue that’s just sitting there empty. There’s an easy solution for Jared and Ivanka’s exile among Washington: just go home!

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.