Inside Ivanka’s Dreamworld
The “first daughter” spent years rigorously cultivating her image. But she wasn’t prepared for scrutiny.
You could tell by his eyes, the way they popped and gleamed and fixed on someone behind me. Only one person gets that kind of look from Donald Trump. “Oh!” the president said. “Ivanka!”
Ivanka Trump lifted her hands, astonished. “I forgot you guys were meeting—I was just coming by!” she said. “Uh-oh!”
The first daughter (though not the only daughter), wearing a fitted black mockneck and black pants, her golden hair fastened in a low twist, glided across the Oval Office. It was a Tuesday afternoon, and it was apparently vital to inform Trump, at that very moment, that Siemens had pledged to expand its education and training opportunities to more workers as part of Ivanka’s workforce-development initiative. She also wanted to remind him that tomorrow would be the inaugural session of the program’s advisory board, and that Tim Cook would be joining the meeting.
“She loves doing it,” Trump said, presumably to me but while looking at Ivanka. “And she wants no credit. Just like me, she wants no credit.” They both started laughing.
For months, I had tried to secure an on-the-record interview with Ivanka to talk about her White House role and her life in Washington, D.C., but she had repeatedly declined. So I was surprised to receive a call one morning from Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, telling me that the president himself was available to talk about his daughter. We had spent 20 minutes, until Ivanka walked in, doing just that.
In our conversation, the president wanted to be clear: He was very proud of all his children. “Barron is young, but he’s got wonderful potential,” he said. “And Tiffany’s doing extremely well. Don is, uh, he’s enjoying politics; actually, it’s very good. And Eric is running the business along with Don, and also very much into politics. I mean, the children—the children have been very, very good.”
But Ivanka, whom he sometimes calls “Baby” in official meetings, is “unique.” If Trump sees any of his children as his heir apparent, it’s Ivanka. “If she ever wanted to run for president,” he said, “I think she’d be very, very hard to beat.” At 37, she is old enough. But Ivanka has never talked with her friends about running for office, and the president said she has never expressed any interest about that to him. Still, while Don Jr. might be a hit at political rallies, Ivanka is the only child the president ever considered for an administration post. “She went into the whole helping-people-with-jobs, and I wasn’t sure that was going to be the best use of her time, but I didn’t know how successful she’d be,” the president said. “She’s created millions of jobs, and I had no idea she’d be that successful.”
The “millions of jobs” claim is not true. (Through Ivanka’s work as an adviser to the president, companies such as Walmart and IBM have pledged to provide re-skilling opportunities over the next five years, mainly to people with jobs already.) But it’s true that when jobs open up in the Trump administration—a frequent occurrence—Ivanka is at the top of her father’s mind. “She’s a natural diplomat,” Trump said. “She would’ve been great at the United Nations, as an example.” I asked why he didn’t nominate her. “If I did, they’d say nepotism, when it would’ve had nothing to do with nepotism. But she would’ve been incredible.” Warming to the subject, he said, “I even thought of Ivanka for the World Bank … She would’ve been great at that because she’s very good with numbers.”
The president went on: “She’s got a great calmness … I’ve seen her under tremendous stress and pressure. She reacts very well—that’s usually a genetic thing, but it’s one of those things, nevertheless.” He added: “She’s got a tremendous presence when she walks into the room.”
The Oval Office drop-in did not come as much of a surprise. The world may have gone off script, but Ivanka still follows the teleprompter. When she ran her multimillion-dollar lifestyle brand, she worked relentlessly at “cultivating authenticity,” as she put it. She dreamed up a world full of serendipitous moments and marvelous coincidences, with the pastel-hued bags and shoes to match. Ivanka told W magazine, at age 22, “There are very few things we can control in life, but how we project ourselves is one of them.” That discipline has meant, as her brother Don Jr. told me, that “you can put Ivanka in virtually any environment and she’ll thrive.” In the White House, she has projected herself as a cosmopolitan peacemaker, dedicating her efforts largely to issues such as women’s economic empowerment, workforce development, and the fight against human trafficking. She is not a conservative, she enjoys telling people. She is a “pragmatist.”
One evening earlier this year, the former deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, on behalf of Ivanka, invited lawmakers, donors, and ambassadors to Washington’s Metropolitan Club to celebrate the passage of the Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act, an effort Ivanka had led to promote gender equality in the developing world. “People say Washington doesn’t work,” Ivanka told the gathering, according to an attendee who paraphrased her remarks. “But this room tells you bipartisanship is possible.” She made no mention of the fact that, outside, thanks to her father’s insistence on building a border wall despite bipartisan opposition, the U.S. government was mired in the longest shutdown in its history.
There were two competing reads on Ivanka that evening. Some of those present praised her to me as a serious adviser pushing positive change amid unending chaos. Others condemned her as a dutiful daughter content to pretend that the chaos doesn’t exist. (“Then why did you go?” I asked one of her critics. “As a favor to Dina,” this person insisted.) Ivanka has always been subject to unsavory interpretations—the price of being a Trump. But she has also been adept at defining herself apart from her father. There is an advantage to being surrounded by men people don’t like. So when she moved to Washington, Ivanka deployed a version of her signature approach—planning “impromptu” visits at the White House instead of at Trump Tower; posing for “candid” Instagrams at international summits rather than at the Met Gala. What her friends say she couldn’t understand was why, this time, many people weren’t buying it—why it was no longer the authenticity they saw, but the cultivation.
Ivanka Trump begins most mornings at about 5:30 a.m., when Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood is still dark. She shares a 6,870-square-foot white colonial home there with her husband, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, and their three children. Jared, who calls his wife “Ivanks,” makes her coffee and breakfast, often crackers with cottage cheese and sliced fruit. Depending on the day, Ivanka might lead a hair stylist to her office, where the desk has been cleared so he can arrange his tools. Her request is almost always the same: sleek and straight, parted down the middle.
The branding education of Ivanka began in Aspen, Colorado, in 1989, just after Christmas. Donald Trump had taken his wife, Ivana, and their three children—11-year-old Don, 8-year-old Ivanka, and 5-year-old Eric—for a week-long stay at the Little Nell hotel. He had also brought along his 26-year-old mistress, Marla Maples, dispatching his airplane to pick her up in Tennessee and stashing her in a penthouse not far from his family. A few days into the trip, they all collided at a restaurant on the mountain. During the screaming match that ensued between her and Ivana, Maples let out a triumphant cry: “It’s out! It’s finally out!” The kids didn’t say a word.
Talk of divorce was immediate back in New York. The tabloids were ravening. Reporters accosted Ivanka as she walked to school. In The Trump Card, the memoir she published at 27, Ivanka recalled one “idiot” asking, in the aftermath of the “Best Sex I’ve Ever Had” New York Post headline, whether Maples’s claims were true.
Ivanka did not view her father’s philandering as a personal betrayal. Her grievances were more cosmic. She mourned the breakdown of the order and routines she’d cherished. She dwelled less on the divorce itself than on the fact that she hadn’t seen it coming. Traumatic as it was, Ivanka wrote in her memoir, she chose to use the experience as a way of giving her life “shape and meaning.” The divorce might have educated her on all the things she couldn’t control, but it also affirmed for her the one thing she could control, at least up to a point: her image.
According to her mother, Ivanka was destined to be disciplined, polished, and tactful—she made sure of it. “I did not spoil my kids,” Ivana told me on the phone from Miami, where she spends the winter months. “They had no choice … I kept them busy, busy, busy.” She signed her daughter up for skiing, ice-skating, and tennis lessons, as well as singing classes (“She was okay”). There were several years of ballet, including a role in The Nutcracker at Christmastime, which Ivana’s “old friend Michael Jackson” came to watch. Ivana was careful never to give her children “too much money,” because when “girls get too much money, they buy the drugs, they go to nightclubs—none of that Ivanka ever did.” The craziest things ever got was probably the day a 14-year-old Ivanka came home with blue hair. “I freaked out,” Ivana said. “I bought the Nice ’n Easy in the palest blond and put it all over.”
In a Seventeen magazine feature in 1998, Ivanka showed off her dorm room at Choate Rosemary Hall, posing amid decor such as a sparkly Urban Outfitters lamp, a travel-size hair brush, algebra and trigonometry textbooks, and a Robert Doisneau poster she’d gotten “on a street in France for about a buck.” Around the same time Paris Hilton was emerging as the vacuous and club-happy heiress, Ivanka was blooming as her straitlaced foil.
It has been said that Donald Trump is a poor person’s idea of a rich person—the hot blondes, the private jets and wine bottles and steaks bearing his name in big block letters. Ivanka presented herself as something closer to a rich person’s idea of a rich person—a young Jackie Kennedy, whispery voice and all, who just happened to be trapped in a tacky gilded cage. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School with an economics degree, she went on to enjoy success as an entrepreneur with a jewelry line and, later, a full fashion label. In interviews, she came across as a woman whose wealth never blinded her to the plight of others or the importance of hard work.
That Ivanka defied expectations was, at first, no more than a curiosity. Whether keeping her distance from the Trump brand was just a media-savvy calculation—a veneer masking deeper alignment—would matter more in the years to come. In 2011, Trump became the nation’s most high-profile “birther.” Over the next three years, he would question Barack Obama’s citizenship on television and tweet that he’d been told by an “extremely credible source” that the president’s birth certificate was a “fraud.” There's no record of Ivanka ever commenting on Trump’s conduct during those years, nor was she pressed, because of course she didn’t agree with him. There was no need to even ask.
For all that, people close to the family understood Ivanka’s devotion to her father. In the thick of his birther phase, Trump revisited the idea of running for office, either governor of New York or president of the United States. Always by his side, every step of the way, was Ivanka. She was there on a series of afternoons in Trump Tower in 2013 and 2014, scribbling notes as a murderers’ row of her father’s confidants—Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Michael Caputo—gamed out a potential campaign. “She was quiet in the meetings,” Caputo told me, “but Mr. Trump would turn to her and ask her questions. It became clear to me that he trusted Ivanka more than anyone.”
I first met Ivanka Trump in the summer of 2013, when I was interning for the New York Observer. This was when Jared Kushner owned the paper, though I had never seen him, or Ivanka, in the office. But they were at the Plaza Hotel one evening for an event marking the Commercial Observer’s annual ranking of the real-estate industry’s most powerful people. We interns were checking coats.
When my shift was up, I ventured into the crowd. Ivanka was hard to miss—taller and prettier than everyone else. I was a fan, as were most girls I knew. We thought she had it all—her own company, a pretty family, a pretty apartment. When I saw an opening, I told her as much. She thanked me and told me she liked my dress. We took a photo together, which I posted on Instagram.
By 2015, when Donald Trump announced his bid for president, her company’s profits suggested that many women saw Ivanka the way I did. If anything, her life had become even prettier. She had launched her clothing line, and had signed a contract for a book about how to be just like her. She was a Woman Who Worked; she would soon have her third child. All of which made for a somewhat jarring image that infamous June day when Trump came down the escalator to warn of a Mexican-rapist invasion while Ivanka, ever the fount of respectability, stood alongside him.
The founding myth of Ivanka Trump is that she is a “moderating force.” It is difficult to trace how the idea took hold. Perhaps Trump himself unwittingly put it best when he described to me Ivanka’s decision to get involved in his presidential campaign: “I think it just morphed into something that happened.” During the election, Ivanka never said outright that she supported abortion rights, for example, or was concerned about climate change, yet many people felt sure of both. Ivanka did not offer an opinion on immigration or the need for a border wall, yet the conventional wisdom was that her views must be different from her father’s. She wrote thank-you notes. She spoke in complete sentences. Because she embraced the manners of polite society, she surely embraced its politics, too.
Throughout the election, Ivanka maintained a pleasing blankness. According to a senior campaign official, she was not keen on taking part in campaign rallies. “She didn’t want anything to do with them,” the official told me, “even though she was by far the most requested surrogate.” By saying nothing to anyone, Ivanka could be everything to everyone. Having Ivanka as a focus proved convenient to many Republicans, especially white suburban women, straining to rationalize support for a nominee whose style they detested. Following Trump’s victory, even some Democrats pinned their hopes on Ivanka. Hadn’t she met with Planned Parenthood? Al Gore? It all seemed reason enough to believe that the new first daughter would keep her father’s worse impulses in check.
In August 2016, three months before the election, Ivanka posed for a multipage spread in Harper’s Bazaar. By then, Donald Trump had already committed a series of disturbing offenses on the trail—denigrating women, insulting John McCain. Ivanka still managed to present a facsimile of separateness. “She is standing like a statue, a magnificent statue, in a Carolina Herrera gown, with a baby on one shoulder and a cell phone on the other,” the Bazaar piece began. It referred to Ivanka as Wonder Woman.
Ivanka might have laughed had anyone predicted, as the stylist zipped her into that $6,990 Herrera gown, that in less than a year she would find herself rebuffed by a D.C. workout studio she hadn’t yet heard of—Solidcore, a Pilates-based gym frequented by Michelle Obama. In February 2017, after Ivanka took a class there, the owner, Anne Mahlum, in a since-deleted Facebook post, accused President Trump of “threatening the rights of many of my beloved clients and coaches.” Suddenly, Ivanka was finding herself radioactive. Back in New York, when people had seen her at boutique workout sessions, they’d asked for selfies.
Don Jr. explained how life had changed for Ivanka. “She was loved by all the people in the world she wanted to be loved by,” he told me. “I can’t say she’s not disappointed by them turning on her. After the election, I found 10,000 emails saying, ‘Hey buddy, we were with you all along,’ and I’m like, No you weren’t, you piece of shit. I just think I figured it out a little bit earlier than she did that people were going to see us differently after my father won.”
The disdain deepened when Ivanka joined the White House as an adviser, in March 2017. No one understood what she had been brought on to do. Not even the president. During our interview, I asked Trump how he had envisioned Ivanka’s role. “So I didn’t know,” he said without pause. “I’m not sure she knew.”
Ivanka’s first months were spent navigating the rollout of her book. A week before the election, Ivanka had handed in the manuscript for Women Who Work, a guide to “rewriting the rules for success.” Her publisher was confident that the book, centered on what they understood to be her personal brand, would reach its intended audience of “working women in coastal cities,” a source with knowledge of the discussions told me. Trump wasn’t going to be elected, and Ivanka still seemed to have the cachet that had earned her a contract in the first place.
When Trump won, everything went to hell. According to the source, “We just really didn’t know what would happen, because we were now publishing a book to a community who didn’t like her dad very much.” The silver lining was that the publicity team was flooded with requests for interviews with the first daughter. Then, three weeks before publication, government ethics lawyers weighed in: Ivanka could not do a single appearance or interview to promote the book. Sales were dismal. Women Who Work was widely panned. Reviewers did not just excoriate the book; they excoriated Ivanka. She herself hadn’t changed: She was doling out the same #ITWiseWords she always had—“Prove smart is sexy,” “Seize the moments as they come,” “‘Now’ is the new ‘later.’” But for the first time, Ivanka was unable to disassociate from her father. She was no longer a Woman Who Worked. She was a Woman Who Worked for Donald Trump.
As the book’s sales struggled, Ivanka turned her full attention—behind the scenes—to the Paris Agreement. Her father had promised on the campaign trail to withdraw the United States from the climate accord. If Ivanka could change the president’s mind, the planet might not be the only beneficiary.
In lobbying her father, Ivanka had important allies: her senior-adviser husband, Jared; National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn; and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. She also faced strong opposition: the chief strategist Steve Bannon; White House Counsel Don McGahn; and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Ivanka sat in on nearly every meeting about the accord. Her strategy was to appeal to her father’s obsession with good press. “It was always ‘This is going to look really bad. We’re going to get killed by the media,’” a former senior official told me. She phoned Tim Cook, asking him to press her father personally to stay in the agreement.
Another former official recounted a meeting in the Situation Room. McGahn, Pruitt, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions had come armed with a “deeply technical” presentation on why the United States should withdraw. After the three men wrapped up, Ivanka stood to offer her own take. In tempered, breathy tones, she argued that the U.S. was under no obligation to pay the billions that Obama had promised, and referred to the deal several times as “aspirational.” She sat back down. “No one really knew how to respond,” the former official recalled. “Even Tillerson and others who wanted us to stay in were like, ‘Okay, thank you for that. Moving on.’”
Few things about the Trump administration are predictable, but it’s a safe bet that if the president makes a controversial move, an anonymously sourced reference to Ivanka’s distress will circulate soon after. At a Rose Garden ceremony in June 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would indeed withdraw from the climate accord. Six days later, Us Weekly published a story about Ivanka. The glossy cover line read, “WHY I DISAGREE WITH MY DAD: Balancing her personal ideals with love and loyalty to her father, the president’s daughter will always fight for what she believes in.” Citing a “source close to Ivanka,” the article said that she was “disappointed” by her father’s decision.
My own sources close to Ivanka insisted to me recently that neither she nor her team had anything to do with the Us Weekly cover. “Those kinds of leaks always came from people who hated her and wanted to make her look like an asshole to the base,” one person said. Still, the damage was done. The cover was instantly memed and mocked across the internet. I asked President Trump about his recollection of Ivanka’s voice in the Paris negotiations. “Ivanka was in favor of staying in,” the president said. “She expressed it, but I’m not sure she knew it as well as I did. I’m not sure she knew the costs of it … You know, that was one of my easier decisions, actually.”
The climate decision marked the start of what one of the former senior White House officials I spoke with referred to as Ivanka’s “bunker period.” It was as though she began fashioning a snow globe for herself to inhabit. It would include an issue portfolio—empowering women, energizing the workforce—whose contents she reserved the right to change should something beyond their scope spark bipartisan appeal. No longer would she insert herself into every debate. If it was not in her portfolio, it was not her concern.
Four former senior White House officials told me that Ivanka participated less in staff meetings as summer stretched into fall. On August 15, 2017, Trump caused an uproar when he delivered remarks from Trump Tower about the racist and anti-Semitic demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president stated that “very fine people” had been among both the violent neo-Nazis and those who had opposed their presence—this after a white supremacist had driven his car into a crowd of protesters, killing one person and injuring about two dozen. Ivanka is a convert to Judaism, and her husband and his family are observant. But during the fallout from Trump’s comments, Ivanka and Jared were quietly on vacation in Vermont.
Some in the White House resent the couple for their convenient absences in moments of crisis. But few things have helped Ivanka endear herself to her colleagues more than the simple fact of not being Jared. That John Kelly despised both Ivanka and Jared is no secret. When the retired Marine general was brought on as chief of staff, in July 2017, he saw a couple “playing government,” a phrase he would utter frequently. “He kind of walked in and looked at Ivanka like, What the fuck is Barbie doing in the West Wing?” the source close to her said. But if Kelly saw Ivanka as a headache, Jared was a consciousness-altering migraine. Kelly had little idea what Jared did all day—he could be text-messaging Van Jones about criminal-justice reform or catching up with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (implicated in the murder last fall of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi). Kelly struggled to hide his contempt. At one senior-staff meeting, when someone raised a question relating to foreign policy, Kelly, according to a person in the room, observed that having a clear read on the answer was hard for him, given that “we have about three secretaries of state now.” Jared, who was present, remained silent.
“I think everyone started to appreciate that it was never like, ‘Oh, here comes Ivanka to blow everything up and take over,’ like it was with Jared,” a former senior White House official told me. Sidelining herself on many issues might have helped Ivanka earn goodwill inside the White House, but it also fueled a public narrative that she was irrelevant. As recently as last month, CNN ran a story asking, “What does Ivanka Trump do?” She can point to several modest bipartisan accomplishments. She led the push to double the child tax credit in the GOP’s December 2017 tax-cut bill. As noted, she launched the first government-wide approach to help 50 million women in developing countries gain access to capital and vocational training. And she’s a key reason congressional Republicans are now debating paid family leave. “When I hear people say, ‘Well, what are her qualifications? What does she think she can do?,’ it often comes from people who have done nothing, and who never will,” Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, who has worked closely with Ivanka on workforce development, told me. “Ivanka could literally save an elderly woman from getting hit by a train and the people would blame her for disrupting the travel time.”
The specter of Jared’s involvement in various business deals and campaign events, including those probed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has loomed large for more than two years, and has cast a shadow on Ivanka and her work. So have questions about how she received her security clearance and whether she conducted official business through her personal email account. In February, Ivanka told The View’s Abby Huntsman that her father “had no involvement pertaining to my clearance or my husband’s clearance, zero.” Since then, many outlets have reported that the president ordered Kelly to grant Ivanka and Jared top-secret clearances against the recommendation of security officials. (White House personnel logs I obtained show that the couple received their clearances on the same day: May 1, 2018.) In a recent interview, I asked a senior White House official whether Ivanka had spoken truthfully on The View. “Absolutely,” this person said, adding the qualifier that there was no involvement by the president as far as Ivanka or Jared knew.
All the same, Ivanka has not presented nearly as big a target as her husband has. In the president’s view, that’s because she’s “a very honest person,” as he put it to me. A more likely reason is that Democrats are reluctant to go after the president’s children, especially a daughter whom many lawmakers have come to regard, rightly or wrongly, as relatively benign. When House Democrats issued a demand for documents from 81 individuals and organizations in Trump’s orbit, Ivanka was not on the list. An accommodating view of Ivanka has come to permeate the West Wing as well, which is perhaps what happens when you succeed in helping oust the bulk of officials who dislike you. By January 2019, Kelly was out of a job. (The East Wing is only as welcoming as it needs to be. Asked whether the first lady and first daughter get along, the source close to Ivanka told me that they have a “desire to be mutually respectful” but that their relationship is certainly not “affectionate.” Ivana told me of Ivanka’s feelings toward Melania: “She likes her fine, because she didn’t cause me to break up the marriage like the other one—I don’t even want to pronounce her name.” Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady, added, “They’ve always shared a close relationship and still do today.”)
Ask White House staffers today about Jared, and they’ll gripe that he operates as the president’s de facto chief of staff. Ask about Ivanka, and you’ll hear how she always says hello in the hallway and asks after your children. You’ll hear that she is a devoted mother. You’ll hear about the time she saw a positive piece of press on a colleague, printed it out, had her father sign it, framed it, and delivered it to that person as a gift.
Unlike other members of her family, Ivanka Trump declined to be interviewed on the record for this article. We did have an off-the-record conversation recently at the White House. Most offices in the West Wing are standard government-issue—black swivel chairs, walls an uninspiring beige. When Ivanka had settled into her second-floor quarters, she wanted everything to be white. White walls, white chairs, white window shades. One of the former senior White House officials compared entering Ivanka’s office to “walking into an Apple store.” Taped to the wall by her desk are letters that were cut out of construction paper in alternating colors—purple, neon orange, blue. The letters spell “JOBS CZAR.”
On a small coffee table when I visited was a book called Playa Fire—about the Burning Man festival, as I’d later learn. Seeing it there revived many of the questions I’ve had about Ivanka and her inner life—questions that, after interviewing nearly 50 people who are close to her or know her, I still can’t answer. A conversation with her betrays few hints. The quality that people say they admire most about Ivanka is her “poise”; I’ve heard the word used about her probably 100 times. And she is poised. Not a word or a hair out of place. When you ask a question, no matter how innocuous, her eyes narrow at each word, as though she is positioning herself on a tennis court to return an opponent’s serve.
So I didn’t know how to explain this book on Burning Man, a gathering that seems to represent the opposite of everything I had come to know about Ivanka. When I told a longtime friend of Ivanka’s about the book, she laughed and said, “Really? Huh”—unsure, too, of what to make of it. It could be that Ivanka’s secret self longs to escape her name and stop wearing sheath dresses and sway to EDM on hour three of an acid trip. It could be that Ivanka doesn’t want to do any of those things but wants you to think she does, because it would be unexpected and thus build intrigue. It could be that Ivanka simply received the book as a gift. But even then, her choice to display it would have been intentional, because Ivanka’s choices are only intentional. It could be none of these things. But when much of your life is a study in the art of projection, everything begins to feel like part of the project.
Ivanka may find it bizarre that, two years into the Trump presidency, many people regard her as party to what they see as destructive policies and hateful rhetoric. How is it her fault what the president ultimately decides to say or do? It would be impossible for her or anyone to moderate a man like Donald Trump out of his agenda. She feels like she was saddled with an unrealistic expectation from the outset—one that, according to former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is close to Ivanka, she never had a chance of living up to. “If she is involved” in the president’s decision making, “she’s attacked. If she’s not involved, she’s attacked,” Haley told me.
In any case, it’s not clear that Ivanka disagrees with her father, for all the public perception of distance. When I spoke about Ivanka with Jared, the one comment from that conversation he was willing to make publicly had to do with how much she resembles her father. “She’s like her dad in that she’s very good at managing details. Her father is meticulous with details and has a great memory,” he said in a recent interview in his office. “He really knows how to drive people, and I think she’s the same way—results-oriented and also an excellent communicator.”
Ivanka has come to disdain the notion that her father’s agenda should be any different from what it is. She believes his critics have it all wrong. She is unwilling to concede that she ought to understand why someone might have interpreted her father’s Access Hollywood comments as misogynistic, or his remarks after Charlottesville as tone-deaf, if not racist. Ivanka knows Trump probably better than anyone, and she knows him to be good. In Ivanka’s snow globe, evidence to the contrary simply does not exist.
Succeeding as Ivanka Trump has always required a suspension of disbelief—on her part and on the part of others. It is how people were able to watch her father demand Obama’s birth certificate on television one night and then buy a pair of Ivanka’s Carra dress pumps the next day. But becoming part of the official White House staff linked Ivanka to Trump in a way no one could ignore. “I think it would’ve been a lot easier for her if she’d just stayed in New York and did what she was doing,” the president told me. “That’s always tricky, you know, if you have a business and now all of the sudden—let’s say 100 percent of the people like you, and now all of the sudden you have 50 percent of the people that love you, but the other 50 percent of the people, it’s less than like.”
One thing Ivanka misses about New York, said a source familiar with her thinking, is being in a world where she feels judged by her accomplishments, not the means by which she achieved them, not by “process.” For Ivanka, the policies she’s advanced in the White House are outcomes, and thus the things she should be judged by. Things like her father’s rhetoric, or how she received her top-secret security clearance, or whether she conducted official business through her personal email account, are insignificant. “Noise,” as she has put it to friends. That people might see them as anything more can only be explained, in Ivanka’s view, as a peculiar fixation of Washington.
Ivanka believes that this won’t harm her in the long term. She is intent on returning to New York when her time in the White House is over. Invitations to the Met Gala, dinners with girlfriends at Italian restaurants, charity events—she is said to be certain that they’re “all waiting” for her. And she could very well be right. Trump will not be president forever. Afterward, it will be easier for people to see the Ivanka that Ivanka wants to be seen. “Look, this crowd is not off reading Rosa Luxemburg at two in the morning,” says Rich Farley, a New York lawyer and the author of Wall Street Wars. “They invited Roy Cohn back with open arms.” Farley is sure: “The only unpardonable sin in New York society is poverty.”
If she decides to stay in Washington, she’ll also be just fine. Washington is a city where people are even quicker to forgive—to reclassify whatever once outraged them as nothing more than noise. Take that January evening at the Metropolitan Club: a gathering of people who privately bemoaned Ivanka’s complicity in this and that but who were happy to show up. Happy to sip the white wine, applaud the usual platitudes, and enjoy the soft air of comity. Call it a favor to Dina. Or call it what it really is: Polite society, in the end, will always take back those who are polite.