Et Tu, Ivanka?
In a week of betrayals, his daughter’s stings Trump the most
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No one knows better than Ivanka Trump about the power of imagery, which I wrote about earlier this week. (She’d cropped Kimberly Guilfoyle, her brother’s fiancé, out of an Instagram photograph. She said it wasn’t deliberate. But Ivanka is not somebody who puts up Instagram posts without deliberation.)
In case you’ve forgotten (and you may have, because it feels like a lifetime ago), before she went into her father’s White House, Ivanka had a clothing line. The line had its ups and its downs, but it had one powerful asset that remained consistent: Ivanka’s messaging. This is a woman who once wrote in the introduction of a memoir, “Perception is more important than reality.”
Therefore, the fact that Ivanka did not show up at Trump’s presidential announcement just to smile and say “good luck, Dad” sent a much clearer message than the statement she released declaring she wanted to stay out of politics and parent her three young children.
In Republican consultant circles, there was a fairly startled reaction to her absence, made only more glaring when, two days later, she was photographed wakeboarding. In other words: She wasn’t absent from her father’s speech because she was doing anything especially meaningful with her time.
A still from a video Ivanka posted to her Instagram of her wakeboarding in September. In the days following her father’s presidential announcement, she was photographed wakeboarding in Miami.
“I think it’s really shitty that Ivanka couldn’t even show up. She should have sat there,” said one of Trump’s former advisors—who absolutely believes he should not run—speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Someone else who has been with the family recently at Mar-a-Lago and who was with Trump around the 2020 election provided some pretty interesting insights as to what is going on with Ivanka Trump.
First, as for why Jared Kushner was at Trump’s speech, the answer (and I am paraphrasing) is that Trump has blamed Kushner (and others) for losing his re-election campaign, and Kushner understands that when Trump is badmouthing him, it’s better to be around him than not—because Trump, bizarrely, is conflict-avoidant. (Most narcissists are.)
My source also told me that Kushner knows that “he can’t behave [with Trump] the same way Ivanka can. She can get away with more because she’s the favored child, the princess. They know how to handle him—and they understand Trump will tolerate behavior by Ivanka he’d not tolerate in Kushner.”
Given what Trump’s presidency did for Kushner (let’s face it—the guy is now considerably wealthier than before he went into the White House, plus his dad is pardoned, plus his dad’s real estate business got bailed out), for Kushner not to show his face would be egregious and might actually engender public sympathy for Trump.
Then why wouldn’t Ivanka sit through the talk with her husband?
(This next part is fascinating.)
“Well, [Rupert] Murdoch has helped with this shift—but there’s a shift now among wealthy Republicans and the people Ivanka hangs out with,” my source told me. “It’s moved from being mildly uncomfortable to be a Trump fan, if you operate in social stuff to socially unacceptable.”
So, just to be clear: this person is saying Ivanka didn’t go because it’s “socially unacceptable” in her crowd of wealthy Floridians to be associated with her father.
Drink that in!
Why is Trump suddenly deemed socially unacceptable? This is a man who bragged to Maggie Haberman that he had “so many rich friends and nobody knows who they are.”
First, according to the person who speaks often to the Kushners and to Trump, “The billionaires aren't enthralled with being around power. They like being around their peers, but Donald's not their peer. No. And he is also a loser now. And he's socially unacceptable to their wives. So they're walking back. And now [with] the hundred-millionaires set, it's pretty much like that too.”
Second, Trump himself is thought to have changed dramatically. This from a person who sat with him around the election and has seen him three times this year: “Before, even if he was saying crazy shit, he was funny, gregarious, you know—charming. And now he's just a dick. … Like he's not having fun.”
Helping Ivanka spread her separation message, whether intentionally or not (they are friends) is the other famous Trump defector: Rupert Murdoch, whose publication, the New York Post, has gone out of its way to belittle Trump’s presidential run with the headline “Florida Man Makes Announcement.” (The Post also ran the photos of Ivanka wakeboarding.)
The cover of the New York Post following Trump’s presidential announcement.
I’m told some of Murdoch’s sour grapes have to do with the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Dominion Voting Systems in which News Corp finds itself (it is alleged that the network falsely claimed the company rigged the 2020 election against Trump).
But the real problem, according to three sources, is that Murdoch thinks Trump cannot win.
“If you watch Fox right now, you’ll see they cover two candidates more than anyone else: Glenn Youngkin [the moderate patrician governor of Virginia] and Ron DeSantis [the far-right populist governor of Florida],” says one source.
I’m told that inside News Corp there are senior anchors who are concerned that the Trump freeze-out may be counterproductive because it’s too hostile in tone.
Still, the Murdoch defection isn’t that surprising. Rupert Murdoch didn’t become the most powerful media mogul in the world because he’s a sentimental guy.
So if you’re Trump reading this on the day a special counsel has been appointed to head the investigation into the Mar-a-Lago mysteries, what’s the good news?
Well, at a recent dinner of six billionaire former Trump donors and their wives, the casino mogul Steve Wynn alone of the group said he’d likely remain a Trump supporter.
Wynn and Trump go way back in the dog-eat-dog world of real estate, and Wynn knows what it’s like to be in the crosshairs of the Justice Department. He recently won a legal battle over whether or not he needed to file as a foreign agent for work he’d done for China.
So, in a week of betrayals, I guess Trump can perhaps find cold comfort in that.