This week, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a controversial move that raised questions about whether the president’s decision was akin to President Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre ― in which Nixon fired the person (special prosecutor Archibald Cox) who was investigating his White House. The move has also dealt a blow to White House adviser and “first daughter” Ivanka Trump, who’s been widely proclaimed as precisely the sort of person who’d have the power to steer her father away from this kind of risky move.
But, as The Washington Post has reported, Trump’s elder daughter critically made no attempt to exert her sway over her father:
Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, and her husband, Jared Kushner — both of whom work in the White House — have frequently tried to blunt Trump’s riskier impulses but did not intervene to try to persuade him against firing Comey, according to two senior officials.
If you’re familiar with any of the coverage that has depicted Ivanka Trump as the cooler head that was certain to prevail, you’d have to view this as a critical opportunity missed. Had she successfully intervened, she might have spared her father another weeklong, leak-driven news cycle questioning his judgment and mental health. She might have advised him to take a more subtle, thoughtful approach to the decision, or at the very least made sure that once a decision had been reached, White House staffers would have been prepared to discuss the matter in a unified, consistent way.
On the other hand it could be that Ivanka Trump is actually complicit in her father’s decisions (as is her husband, who reportedly backed Trump’s decision to fire Comey) and all this talk about the way she has the unique power to steer her father from his most reckless decisions is just something that was ― I don’t know ... concocted out of thin air?
Wow, you know, if that were the case, then her role as a White House adviser might have to be reassessed.
But surely there’s no need. Based on the way the media has covered Ivanka Trump over the past year, consistently asserting her as a “moderating influence,” it’s clear that the real story is that her ability to guide her father’s decision-making process is now decidedly on the wane.
Yeah, that has to be what’s happening.
In a way this is nothing new. Since its inception, the Trump White House has been a hothouse of factional infighting, with various players in opposing camps gaining or losing leverage over the president’s decision-making process. But Ivanka Trump ― along with her husband, Jared Kushner ― has been thought to occupy rarified space within Trump’s constellation of voices, if only because she is one Trump adviser that can never lose her job.
In February of this year, in fact, she was given credit for forestalling an earlier version of a religious freedom executive order that would have enshrined discrimination against the LGBTQ community. As The New York Times reported, sources “familiar with the issue” said Ivanka Trump played a major role in killing that executive order. That same report asserted that the president’s elder daughter, having “long supported LGBT rights,” joined her husband in expressing “dissatisfaction to Mr. Trump’s other advisers” and subsequently “weighed in directly with the president” on the matter.
Of course, the same report noted an odd bit of timing: “It came on the heels of an announcement by the Nordstrom department store chain that it will scale back on featuring Ms. Trump’s clothing line from its stores, a public blow to a brand she has spent years cultivating.”
Hmmm. But surely this was just a coincidence. If the lion’s share of the coverage that Ivanka Trump has basked in over the past few months is any guide, there’s just no room for any sort of distrustful interpretation of her motives.
Back in October 2015, Politico’s Michael D’Antonio billed Trump’s older daughter as “her father’s most influential adviser” and described the extent to which she hoped to play a role in advancing “pro-women” and “pro-business” policies in her father’s White House, with an emphasis on “women’s health” issues.
That work is ongoing. Ivanka Trump, who for some reason meets weekly with former Goldman Sachs partner and current Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, has given her main focus to family leave policies, championing a plan that would benefit affluent members of the professional class by greatly reducing this needy demographic’s child care costs. She recently went abroad to share her innovative vision and introduce these concepts to the people of Germany.
And weeks ago, The New York Times reasserted Ivanka’s bona fides depicting her as an “all-around confidante” for her father, an “adviser whose portfolio has few parameters,” and one of the “highest-ranking women” in Trump’s senior staff. According to this report, she and her father “trade thoughts from morning until late at night,” and she has a role in reviewing “some executive orders before they are signed.” Per the Times:
In interviews last week, she said she intended to act as a moderating force in an administration swept into office by nationalist sentiment. Other officials added that she had weighed in on topics including climate, deportation, education, and refugee policy.
However, the Times noted that there was scant evidence to indicate she’d ever actually successfully manifested this ability to influence her father’s thinking or change his mind. Obviously, only a nattering nabob of negativism would suggest that she may, in fact, have actually been very influential to Trump’s thinking all this while, or that she is personally approving of his policy choices and comfortable with the ethno-nationalist tinge to her father’s politics.
Nevertheless, Trump’s decision to fire Comey ― along with his daughter’s decision to not attempt to intervene ― demonstrates that she might be becoming an increasingly marginalized figure in her father’s administration. And with the president mulling pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, Ivanka Trump is staring at a second major failure of her advisory influence in as many weeks.
Assuming, of course, that she actually is in favor of remaining in the Paris Agreement. But of course she is. Everyone’s depending on her! If she’s not coming through, that just means that Ivanka “Moderating Influence” Trump is, sadly, losing her grip on her father’s decision-making process.
Unless of course, that entire notion was created out of whole cloth by credulous reporters, and Ivanka Trump ― having found the means to float above her father’s rancid politics and protect her generically cheery brand from associations with him ― merely wants to cultivate that perception and take whatever advantages she can from it.
But that’s probably a very pessimistic view of things. It’s not like Ivanka Trump has ever advocated doing something that cynical.
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for HuffPost and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.