As Ivanka Trump settles into her new official White House role as assistant to the president, concerns about the ethical ramifications of her continued ties to her fashion label remain.
The First Daughter announced in January that both she and her husband, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, would divest from their various businesses. However, Ivanka still retains ownership of her eponymous fashion label.
After the announcement of her White House role, she transferred the assets of her company to a trust to allay growing concerns that she could use her position to further her own business interests. In an interview with Gayle King on CBS This Morning, when asked about her ties to her company, Trump claimed to have no involvement in it.
“I felt like proximity to my father and to the White House and — with my husband taking such an influential role in the administration, I didn’t want to also be running a business,” she said. “So I put it into trust. I have independent trustees. I have no involvement in its management, in its oversight and its strategic decision-making.”
However, as King quickly pointed out, the trustees are her brother- and sister-in-law Joshua Kushner and Nicole Meyer. In response, Trump emphasized the importance and reverence she places in “a legal document” that precludes her from operating her own business.
“I wouldn’t go through the pains of setting this up if I intended to violate it,” she said.
However, the trust is part of a voluntary pledge to follow ethics rules placed on government employees.
“Ivanka created the trust to separate herself from the business and implement controls and processes that facilitate compliance with ethical requirements,” Jamie Gorelick, an ethics lawyer and independent adviser to the Ivanka M. Trump Business Trust, told the New York Times.
But as Norman L. Eisen, chief White House ethics adviser under President Barack Obama, pointed out in the same article, what’s to say she won’t voluntarily choose to ignore it?
Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, told The Guardian that it’s in Ivanka Trump’s best interest to steer clear of any policy discussions involving trade agreements for textiles. (And since her husband still retains some of his real-estate holdings, they’d both be wise to avoid any political discussions about real estate and related subjects like bank deregulation.)
For her part, Trump holds firm to the belief that retaining her business is the right move.
“Had I sold the business, an independent third party would be able to go around the globe today licensing and leveraging the name of the 45th president of the United States of America — completely unfettered,” she said to King.
But keeping a foot in the glitzy fashion industry isn’t the only sign that this administration reveres glamour. Two weeks after Trump revealed that she’s been steadily working with Hollywood stylist Cat Williams, her husband announced Hollywood public relations executive Josh Raffel will run communications for the newly minted White House Office of American Innovation.