Almost immediately after Donald Trump was elected, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner moved to Washington, D.C. While Jared took an official role as a senior White House adviser, Ivanka said she had no intention of taking a formal role.
That sentiment didn’t last long. A short time later, Ivanka also became a senior White House adviser, albeit an unpaid adviser. Apparently, she wanted a big role, just not a formal one. At least not a formal role on paper. This is an important distinction because her status as an unpaid adviser meant that she was not automatically subject to ethics rules and record-retention laws, despite having a private office in the White House and her own personal staff and undertaking widespread travel on behalf of the United States.
While a spokesperson for Ivanka Trump said in early 2017 that she would voluntarily comply with ethics guidelines, the White House was, as usual, hazy on the details. From Politico in March 2017:
A spokeswoman for Ivanka Trump said her role was signed off on by the White House counsel’s office, and the conflict issues were “worked through” with the office of government ethics. A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment about the unique arrangement.
Today the Democratic majority in the House passed anti-corruption bill H.R. 1, which is described in the record as an effort “to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for public servants, and for other purposes.”
Inside H.R. 1 was Amendment 65, which closes the ethics loophole the Trump family has used to shield Ivanka from automatic compliance with ethics rules and record-retention laws. The amendment was introduced by the always outstanding Rep. Pramila Jayapal. From her comments:
Mr. Chairman, I come to the floor today to speak on this amendment that simply requires unpaid government employees to comply with the same ethics rules as paid employees. President Trump has exploited this ethics loophole for his daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who both work in the White House. Requiring your daughter and your son-in-law to be subject to the same ethics rules as everyone else is simply basic common sense. It is not a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, but it is core to our democracy and our national security.
Amen! Jayapal went on to cite Ivanka’s interactions with Japanese and Chinese officials even as her private clothing company was seeking trademarks and other business deals with officials from those countries.
Rep. Jim Jordan, who’s in charge of carrying Trump’s water in Congress these days, rose in objection to Jayapal’s amendment, saying it was “not the kind of thing we should be focused on.” David Nir rightly noted that Jordan then allowed the amendment to pass on a voice vote, even though he had the power to object to the vote if he wanted to.
Despite Jordan’s objections, H.R. 1 passed with Amendment 65 intact. Elections have consequences. While the odds of Mitch McConnell allowing the Senate to vote on it are not good, it’s an important first step toward holding Ivanka Trump and everyone else working for the administration to the same standards, paid or not.
Hats off to Rep. Pramila Jayapal and the Democratic majority in Congress!