From left: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in February
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

According to a new book, which the White House has dismissed as not credible, President Donald Trump once told his chief of staff to send his children back to New York

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March 12, 2019 01:14 PM

Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both senior aides to President Donald Trump, have endured years of controversy, scandal and bad press since heading to the White House.

Their critics charge that they are, above all else, focused on furthering their own family interests and are unfit to serve in such sensitive political roles. Supporters say any good work they do is ignored.

Kushner’s responsibilities touch on many areas of foreign policy while Ivanka has generally been more focused on economic, family and women’s empowerment issues.

Most recently, the two have been the subject of multiple news reports that the president, Ivanka’s father, had to order security clearances for both of them over objections from government officials.

But, unlike others in the revolving-door administration — with top aides and cabinet secretaries coming and going — Ivanka and Kushner remain in place.

According to claims in a new book, the president has not always wanted that to be the case.

“Get rid of my kids; get them back to New York,” Trump told John Kelly, then his newly installed chief of staff, according to Vicky Ward’s Kushner Inc. Ward’s book will be published next week and, she writes, is based on some 220 interviews — most of them anonymous.

Kushner Inc. was quickly dismissed by the White House and a spokesman for Kushner’s lawyer. The manuscript, which PEOPLE has reviewed, was first previewed in a New York Times article on Monday.

“It’s sad, but not surprising, the media would spend time promoting a book based on shady anonymous sources and false information instead of all the incredible work Jared and Ivanka are doing for the country,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement to PEOPLE.

She continued: “The author, on her own website, listed this book in the category of ‘fiction’ — until recently changing it. Her initial representation was accurate.”

Peter Mirijanian, speaking on behalf of Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell, was no less scathing in a statement to the Times. (He did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE.)

“Every point that Ms. Ward mentioned in what she called her ‘fact checking’ stage was entirely false,” he said. “It seems she has written a book of fiction rather than any serious attempt to get the facts. Correcting everything wrong would take too long and be pointless.”

In Kushner Inc., Ward writes that Trump felt his kids “didn’t know how to play the game,” referring to what he saw as inept attempts at public relations, inevitably resulting in negative headlines.

Ward’s reported anecdote about Trump wanting his daughter and son-in-law gone is only a more barbed version of a story that has been published elsewhere since at least last year.

“[The president] has mused to Kelly that he thinks Ivanka and her husband should perhaps return to New York, where they would be protected from the blood sport of Washington and less of a target for negative media attention, White House officials said,” according to a Washington Post article from March 2018.

In these other accounts, the president was moved by a desire to see his relatives protected from the harsh spotlight — not kicked out of Washington, D.C., for poor performance.

Ward’s book, in sum, paints a deeply unflattering portrait of Ivanka and Kushner, though it will come as no surprise to even their most strident detractors. In Ward’s telling, they are manipulative, calculating and insincere, cannily propping up an image of themselves as moderating influences on the president without real gains.

In another scene from her book, Ward writes that Ivanka defended her father following his controversial response to a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, two years ago. At the time, he put the onus on “both sides” after a woman was murdered while protesting the white nationalists.

According to Ward, when White House economic adviser Gary Cohn told Ivanka that he was thinking about resigning over the president’s comments, Ivanka told him, “My dad’s not a racist; he didn’t mean any of it.”

(Cohn left the administration last year. He told the Times in a statement, “Ivanka and Jared brought me into the administration. We worked well together and continue to be friends to this day.”)

Kushner Inc. is the latest in a long string of largely toxic accounts from inside the Trump White House. It follows books by former aides Omarosa Manigault Newman, Cliff Sims and others and — perhaps most notoriously — journalist Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, which quoted Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, disparaging Trump’s children.

Still, the couple persists, through obstacle after obstacle.

“I think they felt in some ways when things escalated that they thought it was best to keep a lower profile and hone in on their specific policy areas,” Sanders told the Times in July.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was more emphatic, saying then: “Any suggestion that they were going to leave the White House was just ridiculous. They both have been dependable, valuable and effective partners for me and other members of the president’s cabinet.”

In an interview with the Post last year, Ivanka addressed reports of strife between her and Kushner and Kelly, who other sources said had soured on their sense of entitlement to the president.

Speaking with the Post, Ivanka said Kelly told her he recognized her position.

“One of the first things he said is, ‘You are family. You are part of the reason the president is here,’ ” she recalled. “He understands the role of family.”

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