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The recent drama surrounding Ivanka Trump, explained

The president’s daughter wants to have it both ways.

Bobsleigh - Winter Olympics Day 16 Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

For someone who has in the past claimed to “try to stay out of politics,” Ivanka Trump has had a pretty political past few days.

The president’s eldest daughter has raised eyebrows with her comments about guns in schools and response to allegations of sexual assault against her father and made a highly publicized, taxpayer-funded trip to the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, where she led the United States delegation at the closing ceremony and also reportedly briefed the South Korean president about new sanctions against North Korea.

(Unlike Vice President Mike Pence, who led the US delegation in the opening ceremonies, Ivanka stood and clapped for the North and South Korean athletes when they marched out together.)

Trump, who serves an adviser to her father, the president, often seems to toggle back and forth between playing the role of apolitical first daughter and acting as a bona fide political figure. When she disagrees with her father, it is often reported as a failed attempt to moderate his harshest positions.

The past few days have been a reminder that she can’t have it both ways — if she’s going to act as an adviser to the president, which she is, she’s going to get the same scrutiny as any other high-level official.

Trump thinks teachers maybe should have guns, and it’s not Time’s Up for her father

While in South Korea, Ivanka sat down for an interview with Peter Alexander of NBC News and said she might be open to her father’s suggestion that teachers should be armed.

“To be honest, I don’t know,” she said. “Obviously, there would have to be an incredibly high standard for who would be able to bear arms in our school. But I think there is no one solution for creating safety.”

She said having a teacher who is armed who “cares deeply” about his or her students and is “qualified” to bear arms “is not a bad idea, but it is an idea that needs to be discussed.”

In the same interview, Alexander also asked Trump what she makes of the more than a dozen women who have accused her father of sexual harassment and assault. She bristled at the question even being asked of her — apparently in this instance preferring her role as daughter rather than political adviser — and said of course she doesn’t think it’s true.

“I think it’s a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter if she believes the accusers of her father when he’s affirmatively stated there’s no truth to it,” Trump said in a portion of the interview that was aired Monday on the Today show. She continued with a restrained laugh, “I don’t think that’s a question you would have asked many other daughters.”

Following Oprah Winfrey’s viral Golden Globes speech in January, Ivanka praised Winfrey and called for everyone to “come together” and say Time’s Up, a reference to a group of more than 300 women in Hollywood who have joined together to fight sexual harassment in their industry and beyond.

Her tweet was met with cynicism, given the multiple allegations against her father. And given her recent NBC News interview, with good reason: For Ivanka, Time’s Up doesn’t apply to her dad.

The diplomat first daughter

In the same interview, and apparently with her diplomacy hat on instead of the daughter one, Ivanka discussed the tense relationship between the US and North Korea. “We are 50 miles away from North Korea, so affirming the US position and our joint position of maximum pressure with our South Korean partners is very important,” she said.

The Trump administration last week imposed its harshest sanctions ever on North Korea, designed in part to compel the regime to sit down at the bargaining table. According to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at a press briefing, Ivanka briefed South Korean President Moon Jae-in about the sanctions while she was at the Olympics. When asked by reporters whether she has the proper security clearance to discuss the sanctions, Mnuchin replied, “Yeah, she has the appropriate access to brief President Moon.”

As the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus noted, Ivanka seems to be “simultaneously possessing the immunity of the loyal child and wielding the power of the senior White House aide.”

A former National Security Council spokesperson under the Obama administration made a similar observation on Twitter.

Ivanka has problems inside and outside the White House

President Trump has always been fiercely defensive of his daughter, clearly his favorite child, in public. He has lauded her decision to step away from the family company and her own business to join him in Washington (though she, like the president, hasn’t fully divested) and noted that she isn’t paid for her White House job.

He has also lamented how cruel Washington is to her. “You know, Washington’s a mean place,” he said he told her at a joint news conference at the White House on Friday with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Ivanka, in an interview on Fox & Friends last June, said being in politics was “hard” and that there was “a level of viciousness” she hadn’t expected.

There is at least one person within the White House who reportedly isn’t thrilled with Ivanka Trump’s antics: Chief of Staff John Kelly. According to a report from CNN this week, Kelly has grown increasingly frustrated with Ivanka since he entered the West Wing last July and sees her as wanting to be an adviser sometimes and a daughter at others. He has privately said she’s just “playing government.”

Kelly isn’t the only one who wasn’t happy with Trump’s South Korea trip — one Olympic athlete wasn’t either. Gus Kenworthy, a US Olympic freestyle skier, on Sunday slammed Trump’s Olympics attendance on Twitter. “Everybody here has worked so hard to make it to the Olympics and have the opportunity to walk in the closing ceremony!” he wrote. “Well … Everyone except Ivanka. Honestly, tf is she doing here??”

Of course, Ivanka didn’t receive such a cold reception from everyone. US bobsledder Lauren Gibbs allowed Ivanka to try on her silver medal, at which Ivanka remarked, “I feel like this almost is like trying on someone’s wedding band,” and marveled, “That is so cool.”

Gibbs, who also took a picture with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, posted a selfie with Ivanka with the caption, “It’s important to remember that we don’t have to agree on everything to get along, be civil to each other and enjoy each others company. #itsforamerica it was a pleasure to meet you both.”

She deleted the post after an online backlash.

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