White House ethics office 'not consulted' on plans to make Ivanka Trump presidential adviser

Emily Shugerman
Ivanka Trump on a recent visit to Berlin, Germany: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The US Office of Government Ethics has said it was not consulted by the White House about plans to make Ivanka Trump a formal adviser to the president.

This contradicts statements from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who said on 21 March that Ms Trump was working "in consultation with the Office of Government Ethics” in her transition to the new role.

A letter from Ethics Office Director Mark Shaub says that as of 29 March - when the appointment was announced - that the office was “unclear whether the White House would recognise Ms. Trump as having the status of an executive branch employee.”

In fact, the letter says Mr Shaub reached out to the White House several days after Mr Spicer's statement – on 24 March – to inform them that Ms Trump met the legal standard to be considered a federal employee. By that point, outlets like The New York Times and Politico had already reported that the first daughter had taken an office in the West Wing.

Ms Trump eventually made her announcement five days later. In a statement, the White House said Ms Trump’s employment as an unpaid advisor furthered their commitment to “ethics, transparency, and compliance.”

Before Ms Trump’s official hiring, her close involvement in White House affairs sparked concern from some critics of the Trump administration.

Serving in an unofficial capacity, the first daughter sat in on phone calls between her father and world leaders, received government-provided communications devices, and orchestrated the creation of a joint US-Canada task force for women in the workplace. That raised questions about just how much access she could receive without compromising ethics regulations.

“Ivanka Trump's proximity to her father's administration has presented problems,” Peter Stevenson wrote in a 28 February op-ed for The Washington Post. “...[W]hile Ivanka Trump has reportedly divested her common stock, she still receives fixed payments from the Trump Organization and clearly has an interest in its continued success.”

As an official federal employee, the ethics letter states, Ms Trump is now subject to financial disclosure requirements. She is also prohibited from participating in matters regarding her own financial interests, the financial interests of Trump family businesses, and other companies in which she has an ownership interest.

Ms Trump announced she would be taking a “formal leave of absence” from the Trump Organisation and her eponymous fashion line before her father took office. Ms Trump also said she planned to sell all of her stock in her brand and restructure her role in the Trump Organisation so that she did not benefit from its profits. as of 9 February, however, the first daughter was still listed as a manager on various hotels owned by the Trump Organisation.

The letter from the ethics office did not comment on whether Ms Trump had adequately distanced herself from her financial interests.

The Office of Government Ethics did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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