She has tried to be the acceptable face of Trumpism while seemingly nurturing political ambitions of her own. But Donald Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka, did not emerge from recent revelations over his financial affairs unscathed.
A nugget in the New York Times’s investigation into the US president’s tax returns could potentially cause lasting damage to Ivanka, currently a senior adviser to the president and a leading surrogate for his re-election campaign.
She apparently received “consulting fees” paid by the Trump Organization, helping reduce the Trump family’s tax bill, while she was simultaneously an employee of the organization.
“Trump’s private records show that his company once paid $747,622 in fees to an unnamed consultant for hotel projects in Hawaii and Vancouver, British Columbia,” the Times noted. “Ivanka Trump’s public disclosure forms – which she filed when joining the White House staff in 2017 – show that she had received an identical amount through a consulting company she co-owned.”
While Trump was quick to issue his standard defense, dismissing the tax report as “fake news”, Ivanka has been conspicuously silent about her alleged violation. In the past she has worked to put daylight between herself and the biggest scandals of her father’s administration.
Video: President Trump responds to New York Times story on tax records (FOX News)
Joshua Kendall, author of First Dads: Parenting and Politics from George Washington to Barack Obama, said: “There seems to be an overlap in terms of her declaring that same amount of money on her financial disclosure so this really could be very, very damaging. There has been some speculation about a criminal prosecution. This could really be a turning point for her.”
Such a development would be a rare setback for Ivanka, 38, whose husband, Jared Kushner, is also a senior adviser at the White House, and who has long enjoyed perceived status as Trump’s golden child. She introduced him to the Republican national convention in 2016 and again this year, when she frequently used the first person pronoun to put herself at the heart of his presidency. Examples included: “I sat with him in the Oval Office as he stopped travel to Europe”; “I was with my father when he decided to commute Alice’s life sentence”; “I stood by my father’s side at Dover air force base as he has received our fallen heroes”.
And: “Four years ago, I told you I would fight alongside my father, and, four years later, here I am.”
The speech fueled speculation that Ivanka is positioning herself as an heir apparent. Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist, wrote: “Ivanka must realize now that she and Jared can never go back to their life as New York society darlings. So why not double down on Washington and lay the groundwork for a presidential run of her own?”
The dynastic notion resurfaced this week when a book by Rick Gates, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, suggested that the Republican nominee wanted to name Ivanka as his running mate in 2016. Ivanka herself reportedly told her father it was not a good idea and he eventually chose Mike Pence.
Rick Wilson, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, a group led by anti-Trump Republican consultants, dismissed the idea of Ivanka running for president in 2024 or beyond. “She and her bizarre android husband are planning great things for their future, but it doesn’t mean they’re gonna be viable in terms of winning and holding higher office,” he said.
Other commentators suggest that, while Ivanka will follow her father’s example by shrugging off this latest political controversy, the legal implications could be more damaging.
Michael D’Antonio, a political analyst and author of The Truth About Trump, said: “I think that she has ambition, period, so there’s no doubt that she imagines herself to be a prominent figure indefinitely. I don’t know Trumps believe that anything that comes out about them is significantly troublesome; they feel that they can talk their way out of anything where their base is concerned.
“But this payment may have criminal repercussions that are more significant. If she knowingly accepted this money and did it with any understanding that it was in order to evade taxes, and then her father signed the tax returns knowingly, both of them could have criminal liability. So I don’t think it’s a small thing that can just be written off as: “Oh well, it’s too bad that she made this mistake.’”