Donald Trump has been accused of taking nepotism to alarming new depths after giving his daughter, Ivanka, a prominent role in meetings with the G20 and Kim Jong-un.
On Saturday, the French government released a video from the G20 summit in Osaka that showed Ivanka awkwardly interjecting with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, British prime minister, Theresa May, Canadian PM, Justin Trudeau and IMF director Christine Lagarde, whose icy expression spoke volumes. During the summit, Ivanka was also included in photographs of a group of leaders.
A day later, Trump’s 37-year-old daughter became one of the few Americans to set foot inside North Korea as her father held nuclear talks with Kim in the demilitarised zone. The first daughter described the event as “surreal”.
Then, addressing US forces stationed in South Korea, Donald Trump invited Ivanka on stage and promised: “She’s going to steal the show.”
Such brazenly dynastic displays caused concern among foreign policy experts who, noting Ivanka’s complete lack of diplomatic experience or training, warned of lasting damage to America’s credibility.
Ned Price, former special assistant to Barack Obama for national security affairs, said: “It’s one thing for Trump to have his relatives around him in the White House as personal consigliere, especially if they do have the calming influence that’s been reported. But it’s quite another for his daughter to represent the United States of America in the presence of world leaders.
It reflects poorly on Ivanka Trump that she lacks the self-awareness to recognise how out of her depth she isNed Price
“It reflects poorly on Trump that he would place her in that context and poorly on Ivanka Trump that she lacks the self-awareness to recognise how out of her depth she is.”
Price, now director of policy and communications at National Security Action, a thinktank, added: “Above all it reflects poorly on the United States that we’re too often represented by unelected officials without any relevant qualifications.”
Ivanka is listed on the official White House website as “adviser to the president”, focusing on the “education and economic empowerment of women and their families”. This has included several foreign trips, often promoted on her Instagram account.
Her husband, Jared Kushner, is no less influential, and recently unveiled part of a widely derided Middle East peace plan at a conference in Bahrain that was boycotted by Palestinian officials. The couple moved from New York to Washington to join the administration, with Ivanka eventually closing her clothing business.
Several leaders brought their spouses to the G20, but in the absence of Melania, Donald Trump brought his daughter instead. Speaking at one session, she said the world economy would get a boost of up to $28tn by 2025 if women were on an equal economic footing. Ivanka even released video in which she looked self-conscious as she summarised meetings and used words such as “deliverables”.
But it was the footage of her conversation with world leaders that triggered a tsunami of online parodies.
May can be heard saying: “As soon as you charge them with that economic aspect of it, a lot of people start listening who otherwise wouldn’t listen.”
Ivanka then chips in: “And the same with the defence side of it, in terms of the whole business that’s been, sort of, male-dominated.”
Lagarde’s head jerks to the left. She looks irritated.
Democrats seized on the incident. Congressman Eric Swalwell, who is running for president, said: “This is your reminder that Ivanka Trump has no foreign policy or diplomacy experience. The American people deserve to be represented by a qualified diplomat, not the president’s daughter.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said: “Being someone’s daughter actually isn’t a career qualification. It hurts our diplomatic standing when the president phones it in [and] the world moves on.”
Trump drew his own sharp criticism over the weekend for his ostentatiously cosy relations with Kim, Vladimir Putin and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, suspected of involvement in the death and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who lived in the US and wrote for the Washington Post. Trump’s unorthodox approaches to trade, Iran, Israel and European allies have also received withering censure.
Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said: “The fact that Trump would let his own daughter, who has no training and no basis for participating in diplomatic events, [go to the G20] epitomises the Trump administration’s amateurish approach to foreign policy.
“He’s very obviously thumbing his nose at protocol and decades of norms.”
The Trump family business has drawn comparisons to a constitutional monarchy. Trump told the Atlantic earlier this year: “If [Ivanka] ever wanted to run for president. I think she’d be very, very hard to beat.”
Ivanka’s brothers, Donald Jr and Eric, have become outspoken defenders of their father and are set to play leading roles in the 2020 election.
Jordan Libowitz, communications director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (Crew) in Washington, said: “It is questionable what Ivanka Trump was doing at the G20 summit, but it is also questionable what she does in the White House.
“She takes a very prominent public role without defined duties or qualifications further than being the president’s daughter.
“More troubling is the fact that she continues to own significant problematic assets, from which she makes millions of dollars – including a share of the Trump hotel in Washington, which has become a haven for people looking to influence the Trump administration.”