Vicky Ward's Kushner, Inc. — dismissed by the White House before it was published — is a spray of acid on Ivanka Trump's public persona

By Sam Gillette
March 19, 2019 09:37 PM
From left: President Donald Trump with daughter Ivanka Trump in 2018
Carolyn Kaster/AP/Shutterstock

Ivanka Trump‘s detractors and supporters at least agree on this: She’s the first of her kind in the White House.

What she actually does every day in President Donald Trump‘s administration, where she is a senior aide — how good she is at her job, how much good it does for the country — is much less clear. There can sometimes seem to be as many opinions on Ivanka as there are people who know her.

She has been described as “a living, breathing Barbie doll” (according to former White House aide Cliff Sims) but also as a women-focused job creator, as a moderating influence on the president, as a canny envoy to voters and lawmakers alike and as an influence-hoarding self-dealer with a short list of successes who is unafraid to leverage her position as first daughter during screaming matches with other staffers.

This much is certain: As she has for years, Ivanka retains a favored spot at her father’s side. And as he has ascended, so has she.

Still, that has not made her immune to a deep-running trait of the president’s: his tendency to reduce women — even his daughter — to their appearance and whether or not it pleases him. If Ivanka has long been given widespread discretion and endorsement by her father, whom she followed to Washington, D.C., she has also been trailed by his crude, even sexually charged, language.

Journalist Vicky Ward’s new book, Kushner, Inc. (subtitled “Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump”), released Tuesday, is the latest look at Ivanka’s relationship with her father.

The book is unsparing: Based on some 220 interviews, most of them anonymous, Ward argues that Ivanka is the president’s “greatest weakness” and that she and her husband, Jared Kushner, also a senior adviser, are power-hungry and duplicitous.

The White House is having none of it.

“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.

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

Administration officials declined to comment on the record about a list of specific details from Ward’s book, including those regarding Ivanka’s interactions with the president.

Speaking with the New York Times in 2017, some five months after the president took office, Ivanka said: “I’m still at the early stages of learning how everything works, but I know enough now to be a much more proactive voice inside the White House.”

Two months later, in a PEOPLE cover story, an administration source put it another way. “He [the president] has always liked that she was pretty and looked good on his arm,” the source said.

‘Doesn’t She Look Great?’

Much of Ward’s book does not go beyond the numerous earlier news reports about Ivanka’s role in the Trump family and her father’s White House. But Kushner, Inc. includes some startling anecdotes.

“Multiple people noticed that [Ivanka would] regularly wander into the Oval Office, often with a child in tow, and talk to Trump in a singsong voice,” Ward writes. “He’d call her ‘baby’ or pat her on the bottom.”

Ward continues: “[Trump] sometimes stopped what he was doing to ogle [Ivanka] when she left the room. ‘Doesn’t she look great?’ he would say to others in the room.”

It would not be the first time he had objectified Ivanka.

During a 2006 appearance on The View, Trump said, “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Three years earlier, during one of his regular appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show, he said Ivanka had “the best body,” and in another sit-down with the shock jock gave permission for Stern to call Ivanka a “piece of ass.”

“You know who’s a great beauty? My daughter Ivanka,” Stern later recalled Trump telling him at one point. “Now she’s a 10.”

In Ward’s book, Mark Corallo, a former legal spokesman for Trump, discussed how difficult it was “to get Trump’s attention when Kushner and Ivanka were around.”

“‘You can’t have a conversation without him talking about her,'” Corallo told Ward.

He then said, imitating the president, “‘Isn’t Ivanka fabulous? I mean, is she not one of the best-looking women you’ve ever seen?’ “

From left: President Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump
Chip Somodevilla/Getty
From left: Eric, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr.
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty

Though he may harp on her appearance, President Trump has never sidelined Ivanka and she remains one of his most visible surrogates and supporters.

A former model turned businesswoman, Ivanka graduated from the president’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and got her start working at the Trump Organization with brothers Don Jr. and Eric.

Not only did her father teach her about real estate development, he also had her seated at his side in the boardroom for The Apprentice, the reality show that made him a household name.

Ward casts Ivanka’s persistence as part of a quest since childhood to never be far from her father’s view.

President Trump shares Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric with his ex-wife Ivana Trump; the two divorced in 1992 after 15 years of marriage. He also has a daughter, Tiffany, with ex-wife Marla Maples and a son, Barron, with First Lady Melania Trump.

Ward writes that after her parents split up, “Ivanka decided that she would go out of her way to see more of her father, not less. She made a point of dropping in on him on her way to school each day, and she’d call him during the day from a janitor’s closet — and to her delight, he’d always take her call.”

“Whether out of insecurity or love — or a combination of both — Ivanka never stopped trying to please him,” Ward writes.

This echoes what sources told PEOPLE and other outlets through the years.

“The loyalty within this family is insane,” one family friend, especially close to Don Jr. and Eric, said in 2017. They would never speak against their dad.”

Speaking with New York in 2004, Ivanka recalled that “we were sort of bred to be competitive.”

“Donald’s love is tied to performance,” a New York business source told PEOPLE two years ago. “They love him fiercely, and they are desperate for approval.”

President Donald Trump
Jacquelyn Martin/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Ivanka Goes to Washington

When her father won the 2016 election, Ivanka opted to join him in the White House while her brothers remained at the helm of the Trump Organization.

On the campaign trail, Ivanka projected a sense of moderation and polish that Republican-leaning voters — especially some women — found convincing.

In D.C., Ivanka has sought to establish herself as a mollifying voice in an administration almost always defined by its hardline positions on any number of issues: anti-immigration, anti-climate change, anti-LGBTQ.

According to a Times profile in May 2017, Ivanka often requests private meetings with her father to discuss the issues she most cares about.

“I’ll go to the mat on certain issues and I may still lose those,” she told the paper then. “But maybe along the way I’ve modified a position just slightly. And that’s just great.”

Ivanka also reportedly tried and failed to keep her father from withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, an international pact to combat global warming. And she has been known to champion economic policies related to women and families.

This has increasingly become the most public part of her job. She is the face of the administration’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative.

In February, the president boasted on Twitter that she had “created millions of jobs.”

Asked to explain that statement, the White House told PEOPLE at the time:

“America’s economy is stronger than ever. 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 including Perkins CTE, tax reform, the National Council for the American Worker and the 6.5 million opportunities for career enhancement, continuing education, and on-the-job training pledged by 200 companies the private sector for American students and workers.”

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Ward’s Kushner, Inc. is a spray of acid on Ivanka’s public persona. Ward writes that she is chiefly motivated by self-interest — and has less influence over her father than might be expected.

According to Ward’s book, Trump once told his chief of staff to “get rid” of Ivanka and Kushner and send them back to New York. (This is the latest riff on a regularly reported sentiment that the president, either because he wants to protect his daughter from negative press or is displeased with her performance, wants her out of D.C.)

Ward also writes that Trump sometimes liked to check his daughter by publicly reminding her of what she could not do:

“Very, very occasionally Trump embarrassed her, deliberately showing White House senior staff — and her — the limitations of her brazen efforts to manipulate him. It was apparent that he sometimes thought she needed to be publicly reminded who was in charge.”

In one scene from Kushner, Inc., Ward describes Ivanka’s response after Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, encouraged viewers to buy Ivanka’s merchandise on Fox & Friends.

“Ivanka had a meltdown,” Ward writes. “She had been embarrassed by Conway’s toadying. One source recalled, ‘Ivanka got really mad. She stormed into [Trump’s] office.’ In front of other people, Trump quickly deflated his daughter: ‘Honey, you sell shoes. Calm down.’ “

Ivanka, according to Ward, is scrupulous about her image, often showing up late to the White House with her hair and makeup professionally done and sometimes changing her outfit “three times a day.”

This belied her ruthlessness, Ward writes. According to Kushner, Inc., a colleague of Rex Tillerson’s when he served as Secretary of State felt “all of her murders are done from someone else’s hands.”

Other White House colleagues found something to admire in her drive, according to Ward.

She writes that Steve Bannon, then the president’s chief strategist, believed Ivanka “was at least trying to protect her father. Bannon told colleagues he felt she was misguided in the way she tried to do it, but he understood where she was coming from and he admired it.”

(Bannon is notorious for his candor with the media and was lambasted in conservative circles when he was quoted by journalist Michael Wolff disparaging Ivanka and the other Trump kids.)

Ward continues: “What [Bannon] — and other White House staff — felt was irritating was Ivanka’s desire to have it both ways: She wanted to be taken seriously as a member of the White House staff but she also expected to be treated with greater respect, as the First Daughter.”

In a revolving-door administration, Ivanka and Kushner have both stayed in place.

“He is my father, and he’s my boss,” Ivanka told ABC News in November. “And one of the reasons that I have such a good relationship with him in both a personal and professional capacity is because I’m incredibly candid with him.”

“He knows exactly where I stand on any issue,” she said then. “I’ll always tell you what I’m for, but it is not my place as somebody working within a White House to tell you what I’m against. The only person who knows that is one person, and he knows it.”