BAYVILLE, N.J. >> Yes, it turns out, there is something that chafes at the unflappable Ivanka Trump.
The presidential daughter and adviser, in a “full-blown sprint” as she sells the Republican tax overhaul plan and juggles other initiatives, has had it with all that talk about her “pet project” to increase the child tax credit.
“I get a little bit frustrated when people call it a pet project,” Trump told The Associated Press as she spent a day shuttling between events in multiple states. “This is a major project, this is not a pet project. This is a major initiative to ensure that there is meaningful middle-income tax relief for the American taxpayer.”
Trump, who had already been to Japan, California and Maine in the previous two weeks, spent Monday zipping from a morning television interview in New York City to a tax event at the New Jersey shore, grabbing a quick face-time moment on the train with her kids along the way. From New Jersey, she was back on the train headed to Washington for a workforce development meeting.
The planes, trains and automobiles tour wasn’t glamorous. And it was a long way from her days as a celebrity heiress and personal brand booster. But meeting by meeting, Ivanka Trump is learning the ways of Washington. Once dismissed as a first lady stand-in who’d rather stay out of the fray, Trump appears to be developing a thicker skin, digging in and putting herself on the line for the policy she’s claimed as her own.
“I’m feeling better than I’ve ever felt since I’ve been here,” Trump said this week, as she hit the road to promote the tax overhaul effort that has drawn Democratic criticism and spurred internal GOP conflict. As her day played out, Trump spoke exclusively to the AP about the high-stakes political push after months of behind-the-scenes work. “I’m incredibly optimistic about tax reform.”
On her hop from New York to New Jersey, the first daughter settled into a commuter car with a small group of aides and Secret Service agents. She reviewed a speech for an upcoming trip to India — and cut short her chat with the kids when she realized she was in the quiet car.
Trump says she and husband Jared Kushner, a fellow White House adviser, have no plans to return to their old New York City life any time soon.
“It’s definitely not short-term,” Trump said.
Trump — who stepped away from her executive roles at The Trump Organization and running her own fashion brand to join the administration — is also taking on a bigger international role, with a recent speech in Japan at a Tokyo conference on women’s advancement, and an upcoming trip to India for a conference on entrepreneurship.
Of her hectic Washington life, Trump says, “I believe you go through sprints and rests and we’re in a full-blown sprint.”
It is a mark of the importance the Trump administration attaches to achieving a tax overhaul that Ivanka Trump opted out of her father’s Asia trip to stay home and promote the GOP tax plan. On Monday she was at a fire hall in New Jersey with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The tax overhaul is a top White House priority after 10 months without any major legislative wins for the Republicans.
“Tax reform was last overhauled in a comprehensive way more than three decades ago, when our workforce looked very different and our families looked very different,” Trump told an invitation-only crowd, noting the rise of dual-income families. “We need a tax code that reflects the modern reality.”
Whether the GOP tax plan would benefit the families Trump claims to champion is disputed.
“It’s crazy to say that it’s a policy that is really going to help working families or poor families that need it the most,” said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “It’s like Robin Hood in reverse.”
The House and Senate tax bills would deeply cut corporate taxes, nearly double the standard deduction used by most Americans and limit or repeal the federal deduction for state and local property, income and sales taxes. Trump was closely involved in the administration’s work around the bills and specifically advocated for a boost to the child tax credit — the thing she stresses is worth hundreds of billions of dollars and is no “pet project.”
As the final tax plan takes shape on Capitol Hill, Trump has been “spending a tremendous amount of time meeting with members,” as she reminded her hosts during a morning TV interview on “Fox and Friends.”
Ever cautious, Trump never publicly offered a figure for how high she wants to see the current $1,000 child tax credit go. Under the latest House and Senate versions, it could be boosted to $1,600 or $2,000. In her lobbying efforts, Trump met with numerous Republicans, as well as a few Democrats, as she made her case. She’s also hosted bipartisan dinners at her Kalorama home, a practice she plans to continue on specific topics, in an effort to break through partisan barriers.
The first daughter got a slight taste of the action in New Jersey, where she was greeted at the Bayville Fire Hall by protesters outside waving signs such as “no tax cuts for the mega rich” and was interrupted briefly by a woman demanding to ask questions.
Trump also was thrown into the chaos last week. She happened to be exiting meetings at the Capitol when word first broke that Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, had been accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls during the late 1970s, when he was in his 30s. She brushed off reporters’ shouted questions, saying, “Guys, I’ve been here all day.”
Trump weighed in on the scandal to the AP, saying: “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children. I’ve yet to see a valid explanation and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts.” She did not call for Moore to exit the race.
After early speculation she’d serve as something of a faux first lady, Ivanka Trump has won praise for her policy efforts from GOP allies.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who appeared with Trump at a tax event in her state, calls her the “most effective” member of the White House team. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California says members view her as an “honest broker” who has “built up a great relationship with members.”
Still, Trump has been a disappointment to liberals, who had hoped she would do more to temper her father’s conservative agenda and have assailed the tax package.
Trump is matter-of-fact in saying there are limits to what she can do. “I came here with specific areas I could add value,” she said. “In the areas I don’t agree, I state my opinion.”