For a moment yesterday the United States was represented by another Trump on the world stage, when the president’s daughter Ivanka took a seat among a table of G20 leaders in Germany.
The 35-year-old former fashion model sat down next to Xi Jinping, Angela Merkel and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Hamburg, diplomats and the White House confirmed. The incident fuelled allegations of nepotism against the US leader, who has put family members in top White House positions.
A White House official told AFP that Ivanka had been at the back of the room but “briefly joined the main table when the president had to step out”.
The official emphasised that “when other leaders stepped out, their seats were also briefly filled by others”.
Merkel also sought to play down the case, saying that it is “in line with what other delegations do”. But Trump’s already vociferous detractors were enraged.
Historian Anne Applebaum took to Twitter to denounce what she described “an unelected, unqualified, unprepared New York socialite” being seen as “the best person to represent American national interests”.
Ivanka’s participation came to light when a Russian official, Svetlana Lukash tweeted a picture of Ivanka at the main table of the summit in Hamburg, surrounded by world leaders.
“And replaces Pres Trump at the G20 table as he leaves for bilateral meetings” she said.
“It’s nothing unusual for an adviser to sit up front,” said one diplomat on condition of anonymity, “we have had it before.”
Earlier in the day Trump had waxed lyrical about his daughter before a bevy of world leaders, gathered to boost a fund designed to encourage female entrepreneurs.
“I’m very proud of my daughter, Ivanka — always have been, from day one — I had to tell you that, from day one,” Trump said before Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Australia’s Malcom Turnbull.
“She’s always been great,” he said. “A champion. She’s a champion.”
Trump then prompted some nervous laughter when he mused about whether he had made her life more difficult.
“If she weren’t my daughter, it would be so much easier for her. Might be the only bad thing she has going, if you want to know the truth.”
Ivanka was given the official title of “First Daughter and Advisor to the President” early in the administration, amid outcry that an unofficial role exempted her from ethics rules.
Her husband — Trump’s son-in-law — is assistant to the president and senior adviser, a top White House role. Neither of the two take a salary. Just a few weeks ago Ivanka professed to want to avoid getting involved in politics.
While unusual, it is not unheard of for presidential kin to play a role in policy making. Bill Clinton’s wife Hillary worked on health care reform and Rosalynn Carter sat in on cabinet meetings.
The US ambassador to the United Nations insisted yesterday that President Donald Trump had confronted Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin head-on over allegations of election interference, adding, “Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections.”
Ambassador Nikki Haley said Trump had gone into the meeting “to basically look him in the eye, let him know that, yes, we know you did it and cut it out”.
The US and Russian sides have issued sharply conflicting accounts of the meeting Friday in Hamburg.
Russia has denied meddling, and Putin said yesterday that in the meeting, “I got the impression that my answers satisfied him” and that Trump “agreed”.
But Haley said the Russian denials were expected. “This is Russia trying to save face,” she told CNN. “And they can’t. They can’t.”
Questioned at a news conference about the differing view of the meeting described by Trump’s advisers, Putin told reporters that “you should ask him”.
But Trump — breaking with normal practice by US presidents and many other leaders at the end of a G20 meeting — left Hamburg without holding a news conference.
The first face-to-face meeting between Trump and Putin had aroused exceptional interest, amid ongoing investigations into contacts between members of Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian officials.
“Any country needs to know that there are consequences when they get involved in our elections,” Haley told CNN. “And I think that’s why it’s good that the investigations are going on.”
But asked what specific consequences Russia might face following the meeting Friday, she replied, “I think you’re going to have to ask the president.”
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