Trump chil­dren’s roles blur line be­tween tran­si­tion, com­pany

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Jonathan Lemire

NEW YORK >> Nearly ev­ery morn­ing since their father’s stun­ning vic­tory on Elec­tion Day, three of Don­ald Trump’s grown chil­dren walk through the Trump Tower lobby and board an el­e­va­tor. But are Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric go­ing to the cam­paign of­fice on the fifth floor? Their busi­ness of­fices on the 25th floor? The pres­i­dent-elect’s pent­house on the 56th floor?

That un­cer­tainty high­lights the mul­ti­ple roles the chil­dren play for their father. For the past year, the lines were con­stantly blurred be­tween po­lit­i­cal cam­paign and busi­ness em­pire, rais­ing ques­tions about a pos­si­ble con­flict of in­ter­est be­tween Trump’s White House and his sprawl­ing busi­ness in­ter­ests.

The chil­dren are poised to wield in­cred­i­ble in­flu­ence over their father, even if they don’t fol­low him to Washington. Trump said con­sis­tently dur­ing the cam­paign that if he won, those chil­dren would stay in New York and run his busi­ness. But the three — plus Ivanka’s hus­band, Jared Kush­ner — were all named to the tran­si­tion team’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

So far, they’ve been heav­ily in­volved in shap­ing the new ad­min­is­tra­tion. They’ve sat in on meet­ings and taken late night calls from their father. They ad­vo­cated for mak­ing Reince Priebus, the Repub­li­can National Com­mit­tee chair­man, the White House chief of staff. They coun­seled against bring­ing back Corey Le­wandowski, Trump’s first cam­paign man­ager, who was fired in June on their ad­vice.

On Thurs­day, Ivanka Trump and Kush­ner were present for the pres­i­den­t­elect’s meet­ing with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe at Trump Tower.

Trump has in­sisted he will build a wall be­tween his White House and his com­pany by plac­ing his hold­ings into a blind trust, but with his chil­dren as its trustees. Fed­eral re­quire­ments are that in­de­pen­dent out­siders run such trusts.

“We are in the process of vet­ting var­i­ous struc­tures with the goal of the im­me­di­ate trans­fer of man­age­ment of The Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion and its port­fo­lio of busi­nesses to Don­ald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump as well as a team of highly skilled ex­ec­u­tives,” Trump spokes­woman Hope Hicks said. She said the struc­ture “will com­ply with all ap­pli­ca­ble rules and reg­u­la­tions.”

Trump’s com­pany would be the largest busi­ness port­fo­lio to be­long to a mod­ern sit­ting pres­i­dent. Fed­eral ethics rules would al­low Trump to run his busi­ness in­ter­ests from the White House, or, per­haps more likely, in­flu­ence de­ci­sions made by his chil­dren.

That raises con­flict of in­ter­est con­cerns. For ex­am­ple, Trump could set do­mes­tic pol­icy while mak­ing deals abroad that could af­fect his cor­po­ra­tion, even if it were tech­ni­cally in his chil­dren’s hands.

Kellyanne Con­way, a se­nior ad­viser, dis­puted the idea that the Trump chil­dren’s in­volve­ment in the tran­si­tion could lead to a breach of trust.

“You’re pre­sum­ing that they are do­ing cer­tain things that they should not be do­ing,” Con­way said. “They are his chil­dren. And they’ve been his busi­ness col­leagues for a long pe­riod of time. They ob­vi­ously will sup­port their father as pres­i­dent.”

But the po­ten­tially prob­lem­atic en­tan­gle­ment re­vealed it­self this past week when Ivanka Trump’s com­pany pro­moted a $10,800 bracelet she wore dur­ing a “60 Min­utes” in­ter­view on CBS. The spokes­woman for the com­pany later apol­o­gized.

The chil­dren — they were not made avail­able for in­ter­views — are lim­ited in what for­mal role they could take in a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Congress passed an an­tinepo­tism law in 1967 that pro­hibits the pres­i­dent from ap­point­ing a fam­ily mem­ber to work in the of­fice or agency they over­see. The mea­sure was passed as a reaction to Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy ap­point­ing his brother Robert as at­tor­ney gen­eral.

But the law does not ap­pear to pre­vent the chil­dren — or Kush­ner, who is one of Trump’s clos­est aides and is said to be weigh­ing a White House role — from serv­ing as un­paid ad­vis­ers or pro­vid­ing in­for­mal coun­sel.

The three grown chil­dren — their mother is Ivana Trump, Trump’s first wife — de­liv­ered well-re­ceived speeches at this sum­mer’s Repub­li­can National Con­ven­tion in which they tried to hu­man­ize their father.

Don Jr. and Eric were sta­ples on con­ser­va­tive ra­dio and on the road, trekking to cam­paign of­fices and small ral­lies across bat­tle­ground states like Ohio and North Carolina. Ivanka Trump, mean­while, was uti­lized in some of the cam­paign’s big­gest mo­ments, in­clud­ing in­tro­duc­ing her father be­fore his con­ven­tion speech, un­veil­ing his fam­ily leave plan and cam­paign­ing across the cru­cial Philadel­phia sub­urbs.

Another daugh­ter, Tiffany Trump, a re­cent col­lege grad­u­ate whose mother is Trump’s sec­ond wife, Marla Maples, also made ap­pear­ances on her father’s be­half. Trump’s youngest child, 10-year-old Bar­ron, whose mother is the pres­i­dent-elect’s cur­rent wife, Me­la­nia, is en­rolled at a pri­vate Man­hat­tan school. Trump on Sunday told re­porters that Mrs. Trump and their son will move to Washington af­ter the school year ends.

For the three el­dest Trump kids, there were bumps in the road.

Eric and Ivanka were the sub­ject of some em­bar­rass­ing head­lines when it was re­vealed that they were not reg­is­tered to vote in time for their father in the New York pri­mary. An African big-game sa­fari Eric and Don Jr. took drew crit­i­cism from an­i­mal rights ac­tivists. And Don Jr. has re­ceived crit­i­cism for tweet­ing images liken­ing Syr­ian refugees to a poi­soned bowl of Skit­tles candy and a car­toon char­ac­ter ap­pro­pri­ated by white su­prem­a­cists.

But now they stand poised to be the most in­flu­en­tial pres­i­den­tial chil­dren in decades, as re­cent White House off­spring have been far younger than the el­dest Trump chil­dren, who are all in their 30s. Dur­ing the cam­paign, Eric Trump in­sisted that the chil­dren’s main fo­cus “was the com­pany,” but “we’d al­ways be one phone call away” if needed, the younger Trump told The As­so­ci­ated Press in May. “We’d do any­thing for the man.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jared Kush­ner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, walk through the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Fri­day.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Eric Trump, son of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, ar­rives at Trump Tower in New York on Thurs­day.

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