Trump has, indeed, largely disappeared from public view amid perhaps the worst humanitarian crisis plaguing the United States and amid questions about whether her father sees nonwhites as sufficiently American. Each day, it seems, brings with it new reports of the inhumane conditions within migrant camps along the border, where many detainees have little to no access to proper medical care, adequate nutrition, or basic hygiene. On Monday, multiple news outlets reported that a Border Patrol agent in El Paso, Texas, told a 3-year-old Honduran child that she had to pick which parent would stay with her in the United States, and which would be sent to Mexico, as the U.S. processed her family’s asylum claim. And back home in Washington, the White House is currently navigating the fallout from the president’s racist tweets about four Democratic congresswomen of color, whom he told to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Both the border crisis and President Donald Trump’s Twitter attack are the kinds of events that many Americans feared, however vaguely, would take place in a Trump presidency. They also represent the kind of moment in which many people, reasonably or not, once assumed his elder daughter would intervene. As I wrote in April, the founding myth of Ivanka Trump is that she would prove a moderating force in her father’s White House. This myth was born, in large part, out of a collective assumption about how her status as a wealthy, liberal Manhattanite would affect the administration’s agenda. Surely, for example, Trump wouldn’t allow her father to do severe damage to abortion access, because how could a New York businesswoman and socialite—married to a Democrat, no less—be anything but ardently pro-abortion-rights?
At the same time, Trump seemed to have little interest in dispelling this perception. In the first year of her father’s administration, it was common to see anonymously sourced news reports detailing her distress following an especially unpopular decision by the president. Still other reports would explain her attempts to persuade her father to change course. Even if those attempts failed, a “source close to Ivanka” was usually there to inform the public that she had tried. (Trump’s team did not respond to a request for comment on this story.)
Read: Inside Ivanka’s dreamworld
Those signals began to ebb in frequency, however, following the president’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris climate accord. Trump was public in her efforts to keep the U.S. in the pact, making her failure to change her father’s mind equally public. It was then, as I reported in my April profile of Trump, that she came to see the value of using her narrowly tailored portfolio, full of largely uncontroversial issues, as a shield in moments of crisis. The thinking, according to her current and former colleagues: You wouldn’t seek out comment from the presidential adviser Stephen Miller, who is closely associated with immigration policy, about, say, the White House’s failure to repeal and replace Obamacare. Why, then, would you ask Trump, if the issue doesn’t fall under her purview?