President Trump's trip to Asia highlights daughter Ivanka's prominent role

"This seemed to be a moment where she came even further from the margins to center stage," former White House staffer Peter Feaver said.
Image: President Donald Trump, right, leans over to talk to Ivanka Trump as they sit next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a G-20 summit event on women's empowerment in Osaka, Japan
President Donald Trump leans over to talk to Ivanka Trump as they sit next to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a G-20 summit on Saturday.Susan Walsh / AP

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By Rachel Elbaum

During President Donald Trump's trip to Japan and South Korea, one senior adviser took center stage in photos and on social media — his daughter Ivanka.

At critical meetings and throughout his travels in Asia, Ivanka Trump was there supporting her father, his agenda and her own women’s empowerment project.

On Sunday, the senior adviser to the president was in the room with her father at one point during his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, captured and highlighted in footage aired by North Korean state TV.

Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner in the Demilitarized Zone that straddles the border between North and South Korea on Sunday.Susan Walsh / AP

On her own Instagram account, she shared photos entering and leaving one of the blue huts straddling the border between the two Koreas. Asked by a reporter about her trip to the North, she replied, "Surreal."

Her involvement at the G-20 summit that preceded the trip to the Koreas went viral when the French president’s office released a video of her speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron, the prime ministers of the United Kingdom and Canada, and International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde.

Her appearances quickly became a talking point in hyperpartisan discussions in Washington thousands of miles away.

Lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., responded to the video on Twitter, saying that “being someone’s daughter actually isn’t a career qualification.”

“The U.S. needs our president working the G-20. Bringing a qualified diplomat couldn’t hurt either,” she added.

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But it is not as clear-cut as all that, according to former White House staffer Peter Feaver.

As an adviser to the president, Ivanka Trump has not needed to be confirmed by Congress — a role that is unusual but not unprecedented, he said. President John F. Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert Kennedy, as attorney general in the early 1960s.

"This seemed to be a moment where she came even further from the margins to center stage," said Feaver, who served under President Bill Clinton as director for defense policy and arms control, and as a special adviser on the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.

This more visible role could be a harbinger of a more formal role if Trump is elected to a second term, one that could require a confirmation from Congress, he said.

"If you're thinking about it in those terms, the more of a public record you can build up of you doing important things responsibly, the better the confirmation hearings would go," Feaver added.

Prior to her father taking office, Ivanka Trump ran her own lifestyle brand and appeared in his television show, “The Apprentice.”

Her lack of formal diplomatic experience fueled a trending hashtag #unwantedIvanka on Twitter and memes with her image inserted into famous historic moments, including the Beatles crossing Abbey Road and the painting “American Gothic.”

Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders struck out at critics of Ivanka Trump.

"President Trump and Ivanka Trump actually created millions of new jobs and continue to make the U.S. stronger on the global stage but thank you for reminding Americans everyday why they elected Trump," she tweeted.

Huckabee Sanders did not indicate which jobs numbers she was referring to.

At the start of the G-20, Ivanka Trump joined in photos with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, along with her father and her husband, Jared Kushner, a fellow senior White House adviser. On Saturday, she spoke at a meeting about women's empowerment — a cause she has promoted since her father's 2016 campaign for president.

On the White House YouTube channel, she updated followers about her father’s meetings, highlighting discussions about 5G technology and security with the prime ministers of Japan and India. She called India a “critical trading partner, critical security partner and critical ally.”

Since her father took office, she has become both a diplomat and cheerleader. On her Instagram, followed by 4.9 million people, and Twitter feed, followed by 6.6 million, she often posts videos and photos of her meetings and travels.

In May, she joined her father on his state visit to the U.K., along with her other siblings, and joined in meetings with top U.S. and U.K. business leaders.

In one of her early trips abroad, to the G-20 meeting in 2017, Ivanka Trump assumed her father’s seat when he left the negotiating table with fellow leaders — a switch captured on camera by a Russian official.

In April, she said that her father had asked if she was interested in taking the job of World Bank chief but she passed on it. She said her father raised the job with her as "a question" and she told him she was "happy with the work" she's doing. Instead, she said she oversaw the process of selecting the final candidate together with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, bringing the president the multiple candidates to approve.

Asked if her father had approached her about other top jobs, Ivanka Trump said she'd "keep that between" them.

At the end of this trip to Asia, Trump brought her on stage to speak after he addressed members of the U.S military at an American air base in Osan, just south of Seoul, South Korea, before ending his Asia trip and returning to Washington.

Flanked by her father and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, she thanked the troops for their service, and posted the image to her Instagram stories. Following that, she continued in her role as cheerleader-in-chief, posting an image of the presidential seal with a caption highlighting the president's entrance into North Korean territory Sunday.

"Our President is relentlessly pursuing his commitment to make the world a safer place," she wrote. "Diplomacy is forged through dialogue. Change requires bold thinking."

The Associated Press contributed.