TOM LEONARD: Will Ivanka Trump throw Daddy Donald under the bus?
The last time Ivanka Trump made a splash in New York, she and husband Jared Kushner’s grinning faces were plastered over giant billboards in Times Square, alongside coronavirus death statistics and body bags.
It was late 2020 at the close of a Trump administration in which they had been key members and the solidly Democrat city she once called home wanted to make clear that she would never be welcome back.
The New York Times dubbed the rich couple the Vuitton Vagabonds and Scarlett Johansson played her on New York’s TV comedy, Saturday Night Live, in a spoof advert for a fragrance called Complicit.
Her best friend from school days gleefully told Vanity Fair: ‘I’ve watched as Ivanka has laid waste to the image she worked so hard to build.’ Ivanka ‘had the Trump radar for status, money and power, and her Dad’s instinct to throw others under the bus to save herself’, sneered Lysandra Ohrstrom. Well, three years later, on Wednesday, 42-year-old Ivanka, was back in town and prompting some to wonder if the next person going under that bus might be her own father.
For the former fashion entrepreneur and senior White House aide was testifying in a Manhattan court at father Donald’s $300million civil fraud trial. And not for the defence but the prosecution.
The former fashion entrepreneur and senior White House aide was testifying in a Manhattan court at father Donald’s $300million civil fraud trial
It has to be said she wasn’t doing this by choice but, even so, it was a shocking development for the once inseparable father-daughter team. The former president had been accustomed to showering his favourite child with praise, from drawing attention, in nauseating fashion, to her physical attractiveness — how perhaps he’d be ‘dating her’ if she weren’t his daughter — to lining her up as his dynastic successor, both in the family business and the White House.
However, his daughter today is doing her best to avoid any comparisons with Trump Senior as she tries to resume her former life as a socialite — someone who is snapped sashaying into glamorous parties, rather than slinking into acrimonious court battles with her father in the dock.
Still, as usual, she looked impossibly groomed and composed as she entered the Manhattan court building — in a $700 designer dark suit with white shirt, $775 Jimmy Choo shoes with a $3,400 Chanel bag — ignoring the shouts from bystanders of ‘crime family!’.
In a trial concerning allegations that the ex-president and others exaggerated his wealth to secure better loan deals, Ivanka was initially a defendant like her father, her brothers and the Trump Organisation itself. But an appeals court dismissed the case against her on the grounds she’d left the business in January 2017 to work at the White House.
She tried to avoid having to testify but the court forced her. Sources say she had infuriated members of the Trump camp and hardly endeared herself to her father by hiring her own lawyer rather than rely on the legal team representing the family.
And in court, where she was on the stand for five hours, Ivanka adopted the opposite approach to her bombastic father, who the previous day furiously attacked New York’s attorney general who brought the case and the trial judge.
She spoke softly, chose her words carefully and often managed to smile — although her repeated replies of ‘I don’t recall’ to prosecution questions about working for the Trump Organisation only encouraged sceptics to conclude she was covering up for Dad. Her court appearance aside, Operation Ivanka Rebrand appears to have been going well, driving home the message that she has moved on — from politics, the family business and her father’s toxic, election-denying circus — and is back where she belongs mixing with the rich, famous and glamorous.
Defying those who thought her reputation would never recover, she made a startling appearance in California last month at the 43rd birthday of reality TV superstar Kim Kardashian at a trendy Beverly Hills restaurant.
Ivanka adopted the opposite approach to her bombastic father, who the previous day furiously attacked New York’s attorney general who brought the case
There she was photographed alongside a small but select group of guests which included Lauren Sanchez, girlfriend of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, socialite model Hailey Bieber, and most of the Kardashian clan including matriarch Kris and daughters Khloe, Kendall and Kylie.
Hailey is not just the wife of pop star Justin Bieber, but the niece of actor Alec Baldwin, who delights in ridiculing Donald Trump by endlessly impersonating him on TV. This didn’t seem to spoil the party for the former First Daughter.
Kim Kardashian even sat Ivanka, wearing a shimmering crop top and matching sequin-covered slit skirt, next to her at dinner and later posted a social media photo of her with Ivanka and Ms Sanchez, gushing: ‘So blessed to have hit the jackpot of friends.’
Many of Ms Kardashian’s fans, who had never heard she was pals with Ivanka, were shocked and even horrified. But sources insisted the two have been friends since the days when Ivanka had been a major player on the New York social scene.
Ms Kardashian marked Ivanka’s birthday last week by posting two photos of them together on Ms Trump’s Instagram page.
Ivanka wore a shimmering crop top and matching sequin-covered slit skirt last month at the 43rd birthday of reality TV superstar Kim Kardashian
Ivanka celebrated the anniversary with a few friends and family — including children Arabella, 12, Joseph, ten, and seven-year-old Theodore — at the couple’s home on Indian Creek, Miami, Florida.
Dubbed Billionaires’ Bunker, it’s an ultra-exclusive, low-tax, 300-acre private island with its own 13-man police force to look after just 40 or so homes. The Kushners paid $26million just for the land, buying a 1.8 acre waterfront lot previously owned by Spanish singer Julio Iglesias soon after Donald Trump left office, then built their own house on it.
Most of the residents — who included model Gisele Bundchen and American football star Tom Brady until they split up — are reportedly Republicans, reducing the likelihood of political spats over the garden fence.
Mr Kushner’s businessman brother, Joshua and his model wife Karlie Kloss have a $23million home ten minutes away in Miami Beach. Jared and Ivanka are estimated to be worth more than $1billion and were reported last month to have made a staggering $640million in outside income while working unpaid at the White House. It is from this Indian Creek haven that Jared now runs a private equity firm in which the Saudi government invested $2billion, while Ivanka spends time with the children and nurses her battered public image back to health.
Her image certainly took a pounding during her White House years when predictions that this liberal-minded couple might have a moderating influence on the irascible president were undermined by palace gossip about their high-handed behaviour.
The Kushners paid $26million just for the land, buying a 1.8 acre waterfront lot previously owned by Spanish singer Julio Iglesias soon after Donald Trump left office
Melania Trump, it was claimed, dubbed Ivanka The Princess and was incensed by her attempts to usurp her role as First Lady, while Jared was the ‘silent assassin’, dispatching anyone who threatened their special access to the president’s ear.
But that’s all in the past. As a source close to Ivanka put it, having moved the family from New York and Washington DC to Florida, her focus is now ‘on her family, friends and her philanthropic work’ as she detoxifies her brand.
She is taking surfing and wake-board lessons, playing paddle ball and enjoying as much outdoor time as she can with the children.
Her critics have noted with relish that Ivanka has yet to be invited back to the sort of snooty New York events such as the Met Gala and New York Fashion Week that she used to grace — a Kardashian knees-up is hardly the apogee of high society.
But her brush with the world stage during the Trump administration seems to have thrown up even more elevated alternatives. She and Jared were guests at the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan in Amman in June where they caught up with other ‘friends’, the Prince and Princess of Wales who they met during her father’s state visit to the UK in June 2019. Ivanka and William were photographed chatting at the nuptials.
Melania Trump, it was claimed, dubbed Ivanka The Princess and was incensed by her attempts to usurp her role as First Lady
But what of relations with the man who really matters? They became particularly strained in June last year when Ivanka told the congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters that she believed he had fairly and squarely lost the 2020 election.
Mr Trump, who of course called Joe Biden’s victory fraudulent and ‘the crime of the century’, was clearly livid to be contradicted by his daughter – who could at least have tried harder to refuse to give evidence.
‘Ivanka Trump was not involved in looking at, or studying, Election results,’ Mr Trump wrote curtly on social media, adding that she ‘had long since checked out’ of the administration.
Liz Mair, a Republican Party strategist who like many was surprised he would ever turn on Ivanka, explained: ‘He was essentially calling her a dumb blonde.’ However she noted Mr Trump famously puts loyalty above any other virtue.
In November last year, there was more evidence of a rift when Ivanka failed to join the rest of the family — including Jared — in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom for a grand party to kick off Mr Trump’s 2024 election bid. She put out a statement saying that, while she loved her father ‘very much’, she had no plans to be involved in politics. Her father was forced to deny reports that he had begged her to come.
Mr Trump, who of course called Joe Biden’s victory fraudulent and ‘the crime of the century’, was clearly livid to be contradicted by his daughter
Sources said Ivanka and Jared, who has also indicated he’s staying out of the 2024 campaign, feel they ‘got burned in Washington’ and don’t want to expose themselves or their children again.
Then last month, former British spy Christopher Steele shed new light on the Ivanka-Donald relationship, claiming it was ‘severely’ damaged when Mr Trump discovered that she and Mr Steele — author of the notorious 2016 dossier alleging salacious encounters between Mr Trump and various Russians, including prostitutes — had been friends for decades.
The ex-MI6 agent didn’t reveal how they became friends but made the extraordinary claim — which Mr Trump dismissed as ‘reckless’ and ‘untrue’ — in a witness statement to a London court where the ex-president is suing Mr Steele’s company over the dossier.
Insiders now say the tensions with her father have been resolved. Ivanka and Donald see each other, but away from the campaign trail. ‘The two play golf regularly,’ said a source.
They also see each other at family occasions such as her daughter Arabella’s bat mitzvah in Miami this summer, as well as having occasional lunch and dinner dates together.
As she celebrates managing to give evidence at her father’s trial without sparking another familial falling-out, Princess Ivanka will no doubt relish returning to sunny Florida and friendly people ready to forget the sins of the past.
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