Few relatives of presidents have held so much official influence as Ivanka Trump does in her father's White House
“She’s like a Democrat” is how President Donald Trump jokingly referred to eldest daughter Ivanka Trump, one of his closest advisers, during negotiations with Congressional leaders in 2017, according to a new book.
The anecdote, though minor, plucks a resonant strain of coverage and criticism of Ivanka, a White House senior aide, who has been viewed with some suspicion in conservative circles given her New York City roots.
Ivanka, 37, has described herself as, according to the New York Times, a “moderating influence” in the Trump administration.
As Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman recount in The Hill to Die On, published Tuesday, then-minority leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer had gone to the White House to meet with Trump and the top Republicans in the House and Senate, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell.
They were set to discuss raising the country’s debt limit and authorizing ongoing funding to avoid a government shutdown.
“McCarthy was the first lawmaker to enter into the Oval Office for the meeting that day. ‘Hey, Kevin, what’s up?’ the president said,” Palmer and Sherman write. “The Californian had a special status with the president, who often called the majority leader ‘my Kevin.’ “
Then Pelosi made her entrance to the meeting.
“After [she] walked in the door, Trump said, ‘I’ve gotta get Ivanka,’ ” according to The Hill to Die On. “When Ivanka eventually entered the room in the middle of the discussion, Trump said, “You know my daughter Ivanka. She’s like a Democrat.”
Even joking, the scene resonates given the continued interest in Ivanka’s historically unusual role in her dad’s administration. (And, according to Politico, she is a “one-time Democrat.”)
Few relatives of presidents have held so much official influence.
“Ivanka Trump Has the President’s Ear. Here’s Her Agenda,” a 2017 Times profile of her proclaimed.
“Those close to Ms. Trump say she is generally business-friendly and socially liberal,” the Times reported then. But she says that on many issues, she does not have strongly held views.”
Of working with the president, Ivanka told the paper, “I’m his daughter. I’ve known him my entire life. He trusts me. I don’t have a hidden agenda. I’m not looking to hit him to help myself.”
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“I’ll go to the mat on certain issues and I may still lose those,” she said. “But maybe along the way I’ve modified a position just slightly. And that’s just great.” (She reportedly tried to persuade her father not to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change but was unsuccessful.)
“A lot of their real interactions happen when it’s just the two of them,” her husband told the Times.
The White House, which declined to comment on the record for this article, has stressed Ivanka’s work on economic issues, especially related to women and families, and her focus on worker training and STEM education.
In a statement to PEOPLE in February, a White House spokesperson boasted, “Thanks to Ivanka’s leadership of the office of economic initiatives millions of opportunities have been created for America’s workers both by legislative and administration action.”
Critics say Ivanka is a self-interested hypocrite — providing a pleasing front to an administration whose policies she at least tacitly abets, except for mild complaints.
“No one thought Jared or Ivanka believed in Trump’s populist platform,” Vicky Ward wrote in Kushner, Inc., a largely unflattering and anonymously sourced account of the couple published earlier this year.
According to Ward, one “prominent broker” told her that, “The two of them see this as a networking opportunity.”
In his controversial Fire and Fury last year, which was sourced in part from disgraced former WHite House strategist Steve Bannon, journalist Michael Wolff wrote that Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, “decided to accept roles in the West Wing over the advice of almost everyone they knew. It was a joint decision by the couple, and, in some sense, a joint job.”
“Between themselves, the two had made an earnest deal,” Wolff wrote. “If sometime in the future the opportunity arose, she’d be the one to run for president. The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump.”