WASHINGTON — Ivanka Trump is changing course and will become a government employee in the coming days, a White House official told CNN Wednesday.
President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter will be an unpaid employee working in the West Wing.
“I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the President in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules, and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House Office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees,” Ivanka Trump said in a statement. “Throughout this process I have been working closely and in good faith with the White House counsel and my personal counsel to address the unprecedented nature of my role.”
A source with knowledge of the decision told CNN’s Gloria Borger the decision was made after the “unease” expressed by people about the nature of her voluntary role, and ethics advocates Norm Eisen and Fred Wertheimer had sent White House counsel Don McGhan a letter last Friday.
Now, Ivanka Trump will be an “adviser” to the President, and will file her own Form 278, which means she is legally bound by the ethics rules.
An unsigned statement from the White House said: “We are pleased that Ivanka Trump has chosen to take this step in her unprecedented role as first daughter and in support of the President.”
Trump’s attorney, Jamie S. Gorelick, said: “Ivanka’s decision reflects both her commitment to compliance with federal ethics standards and her openness to opposing points of view. She will file the financial disclosure forms required of federal employees and be bound by the same ethics rules that she had planned to comply with voluntarily.”
Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband and a top Trump aide, is also serving the White House as an unpaid government employee.
News of Trump’s new title was first reported by The New York Times.
A White House official confirmed last week that, after a few months settling into Washington, Trump was officially moving into a West Wing office and would obtain top-secret security clearance. She will also receive government-provided communications devices, per the official.
Ivanka Trump’s elevation has prompted critics to note the potential violation of the nepotism law, passed in 1967, that says no public official — from the President down to a low-level manager at a federal agency — may hire or promote a relative.
But the law states that any appointee found to have violated the law is “not entitled to pay” by the federal government, which appears to offer the opportunity for Trump and Kushner to forgo paychecks while still serving the administration.
When Kushner officially joined Trump’s team in January, the Justice Department concluded that his post as senior adviser was not in violation of federal anti-nepotism laws.
“In choosing his personal staff, the President enjoys an unusual degree of freedom, which Congress found suitable to the demands of his office,” wrote Daniel Koffsky, deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel, which serves as interpreter of federal law for the White House.
Koffsky reasoned in January that the anti-nepotism law covers only appointments in an “executive” agency and that the White House Office is not an executive agency within the law. He cited a separate law that gives the President broad powers to hire his staff.
That law authorizes the President to appoint “employees in the White House office without regard to any other provision of law regulating the employment or compensation of persons in the government service.”
Ivanka Trump took a formal leave of absence from her eponymous apparel and accessories brand, as well as the Trump Organization, in January. She has long been a key trusted adviser to her father, through her young adulthood to her time as executive vice president of real estate development and acquisition at the Trump Organization, and, ultimately, to his 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump will continue in that capacity, serving as the President’s “eyes and ears,” per Gorelick.
“She will not be his only source of input and insight, obviously, but she may be able to provide insights into the concerns of people whom he might not meet as President,” Gorelick told CNN via email last week.
Already at work
In the first several weeks of the administration, she’s already been on hand for key happenings, including roundtable discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a Florida school visit with her father and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, an Oval Office bill signing encouraging women in STEM, a visit to the National African American Museum of History and Culture and West Wing meetings on human trafficking and manufacturing, among others. She took an even higher profile this week, making formal remarks at an event encouraging women in STEM at Smithsonian’s Air and Space museum on Tuesday.
The broadening of Trump’s role in her father’s administration is unprecedented by any modern member of a first family.
President George W. Bush, who worked on his father’s campaign, is the most recent parallel to Ivanka Trump, said Kate Andersen Brower, author of “First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies” and a CNN contributor.
“But even he wasn’t sitting in on high-level policy meetings when his father was in the White House. It definitely complicates matters when someone who can’t be fired — aka a family member — is this involved in an administration,” she said.