Ivanka: The Smartest Trump of Them All
Allegedly, it was Ivanka Trump who cost Corey Lewandowski his job as campaign manager. Tim Teeman, who has interviewed Ivanka, charts the ascendancy of a charming operator.
The glossy public image of Ivanka Trump may be an advertisement for the clothes and lifestyle she sells, but it also has a ring of absolute authenticity. She speaks as carefully and immaculately as she is composed.
She wears her own brand of clothing because she is the best model for it. If she could, she would talk about “the brand” for as many hours of the day as you could stand. Like her father, Ivanka not only knows what she is selling, she is the embodiment of it. Those who have done business with her testify as one to her supreme professional acumen, skills, and poise.
And so, however he did it, Donald Trump’s now-former presidential campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was foolish to cross her—if, as has been reported, it was Ivanka’s “either-he-goes-or-I-do” ultimatum that proved pivotal in her father’s decision to fire Lewandowski. Her brothers Eric and Donald Jr. were also reportedly key in the coup.
Ivanka was insistent when we met that it was her day job as executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization, as well as overseeing Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry and the Ivanka Trump Collection, that preoccupied her. Since then, too, she has given birth to baby Theodore, her third child.
“He’s my father and I love him and I fully support him. I’m always there for him if it’s helpful,” she told me.
Having met Ivanka, and spoken to those who know her and do business with her, for an interview that appeared in February’s Town & Country magazine, I was struck by how nimble Ivanka was at negotiating the tightrope of filial loyalty, self-preservation, and self-promotion.
She is in one of the most unenviable positions of a child in public life: She wants to appear publicly as one with her father, she is loyal to her father, but somehow she must also—for the sake of her own inextricably linked working and home lives—maintain some kind of separation between her and his wilder, more intemperate pronouncements and policies.
On The View in 2006, she sat beside her father with a weary, he-just-said-that smile on her face when, to the collective gross-out of the co-hosts, he remarked, “I’ve said that, if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, I’d be dating her.”
Ivanka is supremely controlled and in control. She is personable and friendly, and also steely and commanding, as Lewandowski seems to have discovered. The warm and fuzzy Instagram pictures she shares of her apparently happy family life—with husband Jared Kushner, and children Arabella, Joseph, and baby Theodore—are gorgeous and a carefully curated distillation of the settled family life that Ivanka and Kushner have crafted for themselves.
Lewandowski, according to New York magazine, “was, among other things, ‘leaking dirt about Ivanka’s husband to reporters.’” (Ivanka did not return a reporter’s request for comment Monday.)
The images of a happy family life are not only a selling point for Ivanka herself, but also—in their happy, smiley simplicity—an antidote to the toxicity of her father’s political campaign.
She said to me emphatically that she was not part of her father’s campaign, but it was she who introduced him to America at the outset of the campaign; and she and Kushner—who himself reportedly has a growing role in the Trump campaign—have also been highly visible on the campaign trail. And now, it seems, it was she who finally saw off the divisive and controversial Lewandowski.
It is Ivanka, as Politico has noted and as Lewandowski had underscored on Monday, who is “the quiet power behind the Trump throne.”
Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes told me: “Ivanka is the secret weapon of the entire Trump organization. She not only has tremendous business savvy, but she’s also street smart. There’s no doubt she exhibits the best skills of her father, has already developed an impressive personal brand, and besides is a very nice person.”
Ivanka is also refreshingly honest. “I abhor this question of ‘having it all,’” she told me of balancing work and home lives, making it clear she could do what she did because of the help she had. “I don’t do everything. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do professionally if I did. I don’t go to the afternoon classes. I don’t take my son to the sports playgroup in the middle of the day.”
When we met, her father’s rhetoric had not tapped the depths, or heights, it has now. “The wall” between the United States and Mexico had been proposed, as well as an intention to prevent Muslims entering the U.S. His daughter would not criticize this, or his sexist comments about Megyn Kelly or Carly Fiorina.
“You could also list a few comments he’s made about men that are unflattering. I think he’s highly gender-neutral. If he doesn’t like someone he’ll articulate that, and I think it’s also part of what resonates about him. He’ll say what he’s thinking. I think that’s very refreshing, because with most politicians I’ve witnessed, you have no idea if what’s coming out of their mouths is married to their viewpoints.”
She said she did not criticize him “in a political capacity. It’s his campaign. I don’t feel that’s my role. But I would challenge him as a child. That’s what children do. Arabella challenges me every day. People ask me, do I ever disagree with my father? It would be a little strange if I didn’t.”
Her father, in an email, said Ivanka had “many qualities” from both him and her mother, Ivana Trump. “Her mother is an extremely elegant woman and has always had a great sense of fashion and style. From me, she got a certain business ability and a vision into the future… I could always see an inner strength or toughness. I knew from the beginning that she would be a phenomenal success if she wanted to be.”
Of course, Ivanka was not only insistent her father was pro-women but also a feminist. She was, inevitably, much happier talking about herself and her business than him—and this was before all the primaries, the insults, the name-calling and crowd-stirring, and before her father’s invective had become so divisive. Before the rioting at events. Before congratulating himself for being “right on radical Islamic terrorism” in the wake of the Pulse LGBT club massacre. Before calling an Indiana-born judge “Mexican.” Before Apple, JPMorgan Chase, and Ford had pulled out of sponsoring the GOP convention.
The mystery is how profound Ivanka’s influence actually is, and how carefully and strategically and at what moments she deploys it—and how she deploys it.
If she is worried about the effects of her father’s words on the family business, she has not conveyed that to him emphatically enough for Trump to tone down his rhetoric. Equally, her cool calmness does not inform those same speeches he gives. Father and daughter, at least in how they speak, could not appear to be more different.
A seasoned negotiator herself, and charming and direct to deal with, according to many people I spoke to, one wonders if she has seen—at the sharp end—the effect of her father’s words on the thing he says he prizes most: the bottom line, profit, money. Is Trump business suffering? Are Trump partners and contractors nervous, balking at working with the Trump Organization because of what Trump Sr. says—and how the public responds to those words?
If those business partners are not panicking or stepping back, it may well be down to the determined efforts of Ivanka and her brothers—she is the middle child—to detach themselves and the business from the political extremity of its iconic overlord, their father.
Seeing Ivanka, even in the infancy of her father’s campaign, begin to grapple with the balancing act this campaign would demand of her led me to ask if she considered a political career for herself.
“It’s not something I’ve ever been inclined to do, but I’m 34, so who knows?” she said. “At this point I would never even contemplate it, but that doesn’t mean that when I’m 50 I won’t have a change of heart.”
Just like her father, Ivanka Trump embraces the wisdom of keeping her options open.