Ivanka Trump Is Pulled Back Into Her Father’s Orbit

Two weeks ago, Ivanka Trump was photographed striding into Kim Kardashian’s birthday party in Beverly Hills.

On Wednesday, she will walk into a Manhattan courthouse to testify in her father’s business fraud trial.

The two settings present a vivid split-screen of the lives of Ms Trump: the one she had before her father became president and to which she has attempted to return, and the thorny reality she now inhabits.

Ms Trump, 42, has spent the years since Donald Trump left the White House publicly distancing herself from her father’s orbit. When he announced his new bid for the White House last year, she immediately made clear that she would not join the campaign.

“I love my father very much,” she said. “This time around, I am choosing to prioritise my young children and the private life we are creating as a family. I do not plan to be involved in politics.”

Now she finds herself dragged back into the family circus as the New York attorney general pursues a blockbuster civil fraud trial against her father, siblings, and their namesake business the Trump Organization.

And while she will not take the stand as a defendant, the stakes for her personal and professional future could not be higher.

“There’s no way that she walks out of this trial further distanced from the controversies surrounding her father,” said Dan Alexander, a Forbes editor and author of White House, Inc.: How Donald Trump Turned the Presidency Into a Business.

“It’s going to be an uncomfortable place for her, and I don’t think that reputationally, it’s the direction that she wants to go.”

From socialite to shunned

Ivanka Trump built her reputation as a socialite and businesswoman on her father’s name.

The Trump brand once conferred wealth, glamour, and success. She appeared on the cover of teen magazines, fashion runways, and red carpets with Chelsea Clinton.

“Ivanka, like her father, is a master of self-promotion,” said Mr Alexander, who has reported on the family’s business dealings for years. “What she was self-promoting was a different image than her father. Donald Trump is masculine, strong, and quote-unquote self made. Ivanka Trump is feminine and busy and family oriented, but professionally successful.”

Ivanka Trump with Kim Kardashian(L)at the White House in 2019.IMAGE SOURCE,AFP

But during Donald Trump’s polarising presidency, her surname took on very different connotations.

After serving as a top campaign surrogate, she joined his administration as a senior adviser. Political watchers had speculated that she would be a moderating voice in her father’s ear. She advocated for policies like paid family leave and sentencing reform.

As the most famous Trump sibling, and the one closest to her father’s administration, Ms Trump bore the most scrutiny. “Her image changed,” Mr Alexander said. “People started to understand she wasn’t quite exactly as she had made herself.”

Those people, New York’s cultural and political elite, were unlikely to welcome her back to the world she once inhabited when Mr Trump left the White House. Her father had so often railed against the city and its Democrat politicians, once describing it as an “anarchic jurisdiction”.

“It’s a ghost town. It’s dying, everyone is leaving New York,” he said in 2020.

Mr Trump tapped into a resentment of the city felt by part of his base, analysts say, and a feeling that its political and cultural establishment was out of touch. His daughter, then, soon found herself caught between two virtually incompatible worlds.

Ultimately, her political work was overshadowed as the Trump administration was buffeted by scandals, infighting, impeachments, and, to cap it all off, a violent attempt by his supporters to stop his successor from taking office.

Pre-presidency, Ms Trump once had her own eponymous clothing line. By 2017, Saturday Night Live was caricaturing Ms Trump in a mock advertisement for a perfume called “Complicit.”

A new life in Florida

Ms Trump has kept a lower profile since the end of the administration.

Though rumours occasionally fly that she will run for office, Ms Trump has kept away from Washington. She is not publicly involved in his 2024 campaign like her older brother, Donald Trump Jr, or the family business, like her younger brother Eric.

She and her husband, Jared Kushner, moved their family to an island neighbourhood near Miami, Florida that bears the nickname “Billionaire’s Bunker.”

Ivanka Trump in Miami in October 2023IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

Ivanka Trump is often spotted out and about in Miami

Mr Kushner was also a senior adviser to Mr Trump, working on Middle East policy. Like his wife, he has stepped away from politics. However he recently received $2 billion for his private equity firm from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

In late October, Ms Trump was photographed in a glittering white crop top and side-slit skirt arriving at Ms Kardashian’s exclusive birthday party. The reality star posted a photo with Ms Trump and Lauren Sanchez – Jeff Bezos’s partner – captioned, “So blessed to have hit the jackpot of friends.”

It was the sort of public celebrity embrace that Ms Trump frequently enjoyed in her youth, but had not seen since her father descended down a golden escalator in 2015 to announce his campaign for president.

For a moment, it seemed like Ms Trump’s new life would once again come to resemble her old one.

High-stakes testimony

That could change on Wednesday, when Ms Trump will sit before a room of judges, attorneys and reporters and answer pointed questions about the Trump Organization’s financial practices.

Her brothers, Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump have already testified. Eric in particular faced tough questioning, as he initially denied knowledge or involvement the accounting documents at the crux of the case, yet prosecutors repeatedly confronted with emails and signatures indicating that, in fact, he was aware of the documents.

The original suit claimed that Ms Trump was deeply involved with the Trump Organization’s business, helping them secure real estate deals and loans at the heart of the case. Some of those deals, the attorney general alleges, were based on fraudulently inflated documents. The family members involved have denied wrongdoing and claimed the case is political persecution.

Ms Trump was initially named as a defendant, but successfully petitioned for the court to drop her from the case on statute of limitations grounds.

She could not, however, escape her obligation to testify after Judge Arthur Engoron rejected her appeal.

She has retained her own attorney, Bennet Moskowitz of Troutman Pepper Hamilton Sanders.

Mr Trump’s lawyers acknowledged this week they hoped the schedule could mimimise disruption to her family life.

The disruption to her social standing might be another matter.

“She’s not going to be able to have this quiet, Miami moment of glamour over the next couple days,” Mr Alexander said. “It’s going to be a totally different thing for her, where she’s sprung right back into the heat of it.”

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