Last week, Ivanka Trump joined her father and became an official White House employee. To avoid ethical concerns, she will be working completely free of charge for The White House, but this hasn’t stopped her mixing business and politics in other aspects of her life.
An Associated Press report last week claimed that Ivanka’s company won approval in China for three trademarks “giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka-brand jewelry, bags, and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy.” Later that night, Ivanka went for a formal dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Xi Jinping, the Chinese President. Now, it is being questioned as to whether the trademarks were signed off under legitimate terms, or if Ivanka is using her new political status to further her personal career.
It is no secret that since her father’s presidency, Ivanka’s popularity in China has soared, and her brand is said to be thriving also. Technically (and perhaps cleverly) she has stepped down from her brand and rolled her fashion and jewelry lines into a $50 million trust (N.B she’ll continue to receive payments from them). Many of the items from Ivanka’s collection are also manufactured in China.
Although not technically illegal, all of the points suggest ethical and morality issues that the Trump family are more than used to, yet could certainly do with avoiding. According to the AP, federal conflict-of-interest laws prevent government officials from getting involved in policy issues that could directly affect their own financial interests, or those of their spouse. That would seem to mean both Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, staying silent on any issues related to China, including trade and diplomacy.
“Ivanka has so many China ties and conflicts, yet she and Jared appear deeply involved in China contacts and policy,” said Norman Eisen, who was chief White House ethics lawyer under President Obama. “I would never have allowed it.”
But Ivanka’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, told the AP that Ivanka and Jared “are under no legal obligation to step back from huge swaths of policy, like trade with China.” “You have to assess it case-by-case,” she said.
This isn’t even the first time the First Daughter has been criticized for meeting with the leader of a country where she has business ties — in December, she sat in on her father’s meeting with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe while her brand was finalizing licensing deals in Japan.