Ivanka Trump, who just two weeks ago said she “tries to stay out of politics,” found herself seated between Theresa May and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit on Saturday—a seat that is supposed to be occupied by another Trump. You know, the one who is President of the United States. President Trump apparently needed to take off for another bi-lateral meeting, and left his daughter, an advisor he appointed who has no elected role in the United States government, to fill in for him.
Photos of Ms. Trump at the meeting rapidly circulated and garnered widespread criticism. While it’s not unheard of for the President to sometimes be double booked, it’s usually another high-ranking government official who fills in when the Commander in Chief needs to be in two places at once. German chancellor Angela Merkel tried to explain Ivanka’s presence, noting that “she works at the White House and is engaged in certain initiatives.” But that wasn’t enough to quell the shock at the break with precedent and seeming conflict of interest, or the numerous observations that it was a member of Putin’s camp who snapped the photo and made sure it went viral:
Although Ivanka wasn’t especially participatory in the session, which was on African migration and health, her mere presence spoke volumes about the role of Trump’s family in the United States government despite numerous concerns about the inherent conflicts of interest posed by that arrangement. While Ms. Trump has stepped away from her fashion brand to focus on her role as advisor to her father, her brothers maintain the Trump Organization and her husband remains involved in both business and politics, much to the woe of ethics watchdogs. Ms. Trump’s fresh presence on the world stage calls into question not only the structure of the Trump administration and the President’s tendency toward nepotism, but also Ivanka’s own qualifications for contributing to diplomatic discussions.
This certainly isn’t the first time she’s mingled with world leaders— she sat in on a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and on a panel with Angela Merkel, for example. Nor is it the first time she’s caught flack for sitting in her father’s seat, despite the uncomfortable symbolism—remember that time she was photographed at the desk in the Oval Office? This Freaky Friday swap out certainly won’t be the last of its kind. But the frequency with which Ivanka stands in for her father has done nothing to increase the world’s confidence in her capabilities, or decrease concerns that her function as an avatar for her father is anything but deeply inappropriate.