Ivanka Trump navigating D.C. social, political worlds

Catherine Lucey
Associated Press

Washington — With her move to Washington, Ivanka Trump isn’t just taking on a new city; she’s navigating a different world.

A few weeks into her father’s administration, the first daughter is settling into a life that might look familiar to a certain type of urban mom. She’s been visiting her kids’ new schools, taking spin classes at Flywheel and hitting local restaurants for date nights. But because she is Ivanka Trump there’s more to it. She’s also welcomed Microsoft founder Bill Gates to her home, and hosted other dinners with CEOs and thought leaders — all part of her effort to plot out a policy agenda around women in the workplace.

Her early moves are playing out under intense scrutiny, including Trump’s attempt to untangle herself from her old life as chief executive of a fashion brand.

She was publicly silent this week as she found herself at the center of the latest debate over ethics and Trump family business conflicts. A person close to her said she was not involved in her father’s decision to fire off a tweet slamming Nordstrom for dropping her fashion line, a move that looked to some like a dad defending his daughter, and to others like the president ripping a private enterprise for the financial benefit of a family member.

Ivanka Trump stayed mum because she takes seriously her pledge to separate herself from her business, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share private conversations.

Trump aide Kellyanne Conway stirred up the controversy further Thursday when she offered her support by telling people to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” boasting in a television interview that she was giving the brand “a free commercial here.” Conway’s comments endorsing a product from the White House riled ethics experts and got her “counseled” by the White House.

Before moving to D.C., Ivanka Trump officially stepped away from executive roles at the Trump organization and with her own lifestyle brand. But she retains ownership of her brand and is receiving fixed payments, rather than profits, from the Trump Organization.

For now, it’s Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, who has the official White House position. But Ivanka Trump has been in the White House for meetings, and escorted her father to Dover Air Force Base to greet the remains of a fallen soldier. She also has close ties with a White House aide who is helping her work on policy.

But the easiest way to track Ivanka Trump’s comings and goings in on social media.

Her posts on Instagram have been steady since moving to Washington, including a recent snap of herself with her youngest son as she takes a phone call at the White House. But the mother of three young children has kept a relatively low profile socially thus far.

She has been settling her kids in their new home in the tony Kalorama neighborhood and into private schools. Activities have included jogging in Rock Creek Park and out to dinner at the upscale eatery RPM Italian with Kushner. In some of her first outings about town, she took daughter Arabella to an event at the Chinese Embassy to celebrate the Chinese New Year and took son Joseph out for bagels.

But Trump is also seriously pursuing a key policy interest — developing policies to support women in the work place.

To that end, Trump is working closely with Dina Powell, a former Goldman Sachs partner who joined the administration as an assistant to the president and senior counselor for economic initiatives. Trump has had sit-downs recently with Gates and Priscilla Chan, wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, according to a person familiar with her schedule who requested anonymity to discuss private meetings. She also chatted privately with Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel, after he visited the White House this week.

Women’s issues were also on the agenda at a recent White House meeting with business leaders at Ivanka Trump’s urging.

On the social side, Trump has pushed back against the suggestion that she would serve as a fill-in for first lady Melania Trump, who has not yet moved to Washington. But she is undoubtedly getting a lot of invites.

“My feeling is she, more than anybody else, has the potential to be the ambassador from the Trump White House to the Washington scene,” said longtime Washington Post writer Sally Quinn, who is also a D.C. hostess.

Quinn noted that with Ivanka Trump’s close relationship to her father and her husband’s job as adviser to the president, “they are probably the two most powerful people in Washington. From that perspective, she would be the person people would most want to be around.”