Update — Wednesday, Jan. 11 at 3:50 PM: Ivanka Trump will be taking a “formal leave of absence” from both her clothing and accessories brand as well as the Trump Organization, Ivanka confirmed in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
At the same time, the Ivanka Trump brand will expand to lingerie, though Ivanka will not be involved in the venture, as TMZ reported on Wednesday.
Trump’s 35-year-old daughter is following suit with her husband, Jared Kushner, who said he will divest himself from his own businesses now that he’s to be a senior adviser to President-elect Trump.
During a press conference for President-elect Trump on Wednesday, Sheri Dillon, Trump attorney, said, “Ivanka will have no further involvement with the Trump organization. Ivanka will be focused on settling her children into their new home and new schools.”
Ivanka’s Facebook post indicated that Abigail Klem, the current Ivanka Trump company president and Diane von Furstenberg alum, will work with a board of trustees to manage the strategic and day-to-day operations of the business.
Ivanka’s role in the White House hasn’t been announced, but her move to step down from the Ivanka brand may signal she’ll take an official administrative position. (Reports are conflicting, and a spokesperson for Ivanka’s team declined to comment.) It could also signal that she’s clearing husband Jared Kushner’s political path of potential business conflicts.
Removing herself from the Ivanka Trump brand — created in 2007 and offering everything from clothing to fine jewelry — is an attempt to avoid violating a 1960s anti-nepotism statute that says, “A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official,” nor is that relative “entitled to pay.”
In plain terms, that means Donald Trump can’t appoint his daughter to work in an official capacity within the executive branch, and she can’t be paid to do so.
No appointment, no problem, right? As is always the case in politics, the rules aren’t so cut-and-dry here.
Technically, the presidency isn’t an official government agency (unlike the Environmental Protection Agency, for example), and technically, Ivanka doesn’t have to be paid for work she may do in her father’s administration (like if she were to be a senior adviser.)
So divesting herself from her businesses —as Kushner is doing, according to the people advising him at the WilmerHale law firm in Washington, D.C. — helps them both avoid violating the law. (WilmerHale declined to comment on whether Ivanka will be using the firm to handle her own business conflicts.)
“The question of what’s appropriate becomes formal when we’re operating under conflicts-of-interest laws, but that depends on her formal appointment, if any,” says Susan Rose-Ackerman, professor at Yale Law School. “She may not be violating any laws, but those laws are written in squishy, vague ways.”
By stepping down from her private businesses, Ivanka is also attempting to avoid a statute that keeps people from using the presidential seal to imply “false sponsorship or approval” by the government, cases that look less like conflicts of interest and more like self-aggrandizing promotion of her products.
Take the infamous 60 Minutes bracelet incident: the Ivanka Trump team sent reporters a press release promoting a $10,800 bracelet from her fine jewelry collection, one she wore during the Trump family’s November interview. Cue: Internet outrage and subsequent apology.
Seemingly harmless, that incident is just one example of the messiness surrounding Ivanka’s involvement in and leveraging of her father’s administration. The soon-to-be first daughter sat in on a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, though she has never been taken part in international affairs and has no formal administrative position.
Surely, any role Ivanka takes in the White House would be heavily scrutinized if she decided to stay at her own brand, considering that much of her clothing is manufactured in countries outside the U.S. — Indonesia, Vietnam, and China have all made Ivanka Trump clothing sold in American department stores. And her fine jewelry is sold in stores in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Oh, and Canada.
For now, you’ll still be able to buy a $150 Ivanka Trump dress — just don’t expect the name to stand for much. Following the Donald’s footsteps, the Ivanka Trump brand could soon be nothing more than a series of licensing deals — only instead of ostentatious gold lettering on skyscrapers, the Trump name will be stamped on stilettos.