WASHINGTON -- The Trump family has vowed to keep its vast financial interests separate from the government. But on Tuesday, a possible conflict of interest came to light involving the president’s daughter and top adviser, Ivanka Trump.
China gave her business potentially lucrative provisional trademark approvals the day she and President Trump were having dinner with the Chinese president at the Trump estate in South Florida.
When Mr. Trump hosted Chinese President xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, the foreign leader was serenaded by the president’s granddaughter.
That performance was posted on Instagram by Ivanka, and went viral in China, where she and her fashion brand are immensely popular.
The same day as Xi’s visit, according to the Associated Press, the Ivanka Trump clothing line won provisional approval for three trademarks from the Chinese government. Final approval would clear the way for Ivanka’s jewelry, bags and spa services to be sold to a market of more than 1.3 billion people.
“I think that’s wonderful for Ivanka that her businesses are doing well, and, uh, everything would be just fine if she weren’t also working in the White House,” said Richard Painter, who was chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush.
He says as a formal adviser to her father, Ivanka risks violating the law.
“She has to comply with the Criminal Conflict of Interest statute, which will prohibit her from participating in government matters that have a direct or predictable impact on her businesses, and this includes trade with China,” Painter said.
But photos show Ivanka attending events with President Xi.
In a statement, her lawyer says, “Ivanka has had no involvement with trademark applications submitted by the business.”
In an interview with CBS This Morning’s Gayle King earlier this month, the first daughter said that she intended to stay within the law and had shifted some of her holdings to a family-run trust.
“I put in place -- an ethics trustee,” she said. “It took me a long time -- I went through every permutation of what was the most responsible way to do this.”
Painter and others have sued Mr. Trump over his business conflicts.
According to one fashion analyst, Ivanka Trump’s company saw a 771 percent increase in sales between February 2016 and February 2017. Industry experts call that number “incredible” and “insane.”