With the publication of her new self-help book, Ivanka Trump must navigate complicated ethical territory.
The focus of intense public interest, the first daughter and unpaid White House adviser has somewhat sought to limit her profile. But this week she came out with Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, a book that developed from a women-friendly marketing campaign by her lifestyle brand.
While Trump has opted to donate proceeds to charity and avoid a publicity tour, the book has generated a rash of media coverage — and some fresh questions about whether she could profit from her rising profile, particularly as her name is synonymous with her brand.
Ivanka Trump has stressed that the book is a personal project written before her father, Donald Trump, was elected president in November. Citing federal ethics rules, she has said she will not do a publicity tour or media appearances, saying she wanted to “avoid the appearance of using my official role to promote the book”.
Still, Trump tweeted on Monday and Tuesday from her personal account about the book, noting the charities that will receive grants. And while Trump has done few interviews since her father’s inauguration, she appeared on CBS on Monday and was interviewed for a New York Times article that was published in Tuesday’s paper. She did not mention the book in either case, but critics noted the timing.
“We never would have allowed it,” said Norm Eisen, President Barack Obama’s chief ethics attorney, who said that any of these moves could be viewed as using her official position for promotion. He said that under his watch an employee who wrote The Revenant — which inspired an award winning movie — was not permitted to attend the Oscars ceremony, “because you can’t untangle what’s personal and what’s official”.
Jamie Gorelick, an attorney for Trump, said she had received advice from the Office of Government Ethics that she could use her personal social media accounts to post about the book. White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the media appearances “had nothing to do with her book, the timing was not driven by her schedule, and she has not spoken about her book in a media interview”.
Trump stepped away from running her brand and from an executive role at the Trump Organisation before she joined her father’s administration as an unpaid adviser. But critics note that she still owns the brand, which could be boosted by her high-profile stint at the White House.
In pictures: Ivanka Trump’s Washington DC home
For the book, Trump has chosen to donate the proceeds to charity, setting up a fund to receive the unpaid portion of her advance and future royalties. The first grants, worth $100,000 each, will go to the National Urban League and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Richard Painter, who served in an ethics role for President George W. Bush, said Trump has the right to write books, noting that the issue is if she is “going to profit over using an official position to increase book sales”. But he said he thought it was a stretch to call the book an ethics violation unless it is talking a lot about her White House role or “using the White House to sell clothes via the book”.
Copyright Associated Press