WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump was telling U.S. troops about his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday when he introduced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then sprung a surprise.
“You know who else I have?” Trump teased. “Has anyone ever heard of Ivanka?”
The president invited the first daughter to join Pompeo on stage at Osan Air Base in South Korea, jokingly calling them “beauty and the beast.”
“She’s going to steal the show,” Trump said.
Whether or not she stole the show, Ivanka Trump was a constant presence at her father’s side during last week’s three-day trip to Asia for the Group of 20 summit in Japan and, later, his meeting with Kim at the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as Ivanka Trump looks on during a meeting of G20 leaders. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau / POOL, EPA-EFE)
Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, both of whom serve as senior advisers to the president, disappeared behind the doors of one of the blue meeting houses that straddle the two Koreas. Later, she sat in on a meeting between her father and Kim.
Asked by a reporter to describe the experience, she replied: “Surreal.”
Earlier, at the G-20 summit in Japan, the first daughter sat alongside her father and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a special event and called for women’s economic empowerment to be placed “at the very heart” of the agenda.
Ivanka Trump has often been at her father’s side during his presidency and has accompanied him on other foreign trips, including a state visit to the United Kingdom in late May.
But her role as unofficial diplomat during last week’s events in Asia raised eyebrows and prompted questions about the propriety of the president’s daughter taking on such a high profile in international affairs.
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“It would be one thing if, as an adviser, she was working on North Korea policy, but she is not,” said Jenny Town, a fellow at the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan policy research center.
“There are numerous questions as to why she was there, and yet it’s become common to wonder why she accompanies him to various events where she’s out of place,” Town said.
US President Donald Trump speaks to his daughter and Adviser to US President Ivanka Trump during the Leader’s Special event on Women’s Empowerment during the second day of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan on June 29, 2019. It is the first time Japan will host a summit. The summit gathers leaders from 19 countries and the European Union to discuss topics such as global economy, trade and investment, innovation and employment. (Photo: Lukas Coch, EPA-EFE)
While it’s not the first time that a member of a president’s family has tried to become a player in foreign policy, “these recent interventions by Ivanka Trump are not helpful to U.S. interests because she is not fully briefed on the issues and she does not have the appropriate clearances,” said Bill Richardson, who served as the U.N. ambassador under President Bill Clinton.
The White House defended Ivanka Trump’s participation in events surrounding the Asia trip and noted this is nothing new. She has participated in other meetings at the request of the National Security Council and the State Department and has attended the last two G-20 summits. At this year’s summit, the Japanese prime minister invited her to address the leaders on women’s empowerment.
“It is sad but not shocking that the haters choose to attack Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser to the president, when she is promoting U.S. efforts to empower women through strategic partnerships with world leaders,” said Jessica Ditto, White House deputy communications director.
Ditto called the G-20 summit and the visit to South Korea “substantive and historic” and said, “Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, our country is more prosperous and secure.”
While her prominence during the Asia trip prompted howls of disapproval in some quarters, the Trump administration made no attempt to downplay her role. The White House even tweeted out a video of her describing a meeting between Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.
“It was a productive discussion,” she declared, looking directly into the camera, an American flag displayed prominently in the background.
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President Donald Trump poses for a photo with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and senior advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. (Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)
Another video captured what appeared to be an awkward moment in which Ivanka Trump was participating in a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the International Monetary Fund’s director, Christine Lagarde.
In a 19-second video clip published on the official Instagram account of the French presidential palace, Macron makes a comment about “social justice” as Ivanka Trump nods and expresses agreement. May suggests that when the economic aspect is mentioned, a lot of people who wouldn’t listen before suddenly start paying attention.
“Yeah,” Ivanka Trump agrees. “And the same with the defense side of it,” which she says is “male-dominated.”
The video has gone viral, with many Twitter uses characterizing it as an embarrassing attempt by the president’s daughter to join the conversation. A number of commentators noted an apparent eye roll from Lagarde as Ivanka Trump spoke.
Lagarde, however, tweeted out a photo of herself standing between Ivanka Trump and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and noted that she was pleased to participate in the women’s empowerment event. All three women are smiling.
The #G20OsakaSummit had a special event on Women’s Empowerment and I was pleased to participate with Queen Maxima, @IvankaTrump and many others. https://t.co/PdWrb90TCepic.twitter.com/hmVps0fz7A
— Christine Lagarde (@Lagarde) June 30, 2019
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Regardless, critics argue Ivanka Trump should not have had such a prominent role on the G-20 stage and point out that while she accompanied Trump to the DMZ, his national security adviser, John Bolton, did not. Bolton, who has taken a more skeptical view of talks with North Korea, was en route to Mongolia.
Michael McFaul, who served as U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama, said it is inappropriate for the daughter and son-in-law of the president to work at the White House.
“This arrangement is not normal,” McFaul said. “And it is even more inappropriate for Ms. Ivanka Trump to accompany President Trump to bilateral meetings with other heads of state since she has no foreign policy or national security experience and is not formally serving her father as an adviser on these national security issues.”
“Taking a spot in these meetings means that Ms. Trump is replacing someone else on Trump’s national security team who could both provide advice to President Trump or benefit from being in the meeting,” McFaul said.
Involving Ivanka Trump in such meetings poses the danger that other countries are getting the message to deal directly with her and to bypass other advisers, Richardson said.
“Heads of state are very protocol conscious, and they were clearly annoyed by her prominent presence at the G-20, especially when she attempted to interject herself into their discussions,” Richardson said.
“This doesn’t serve our interests at a time when we need to be doing damage control with our longtime allies, not creating more rifts.”
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