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Politics & Government

Ethics Experts Raise Alarm Over Ivanka Trump's White House Role


President Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka, will soon be setting up shop at the White House. She won't have a formal role in her father's administration. She will have her own office and access to classified information. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Ivanka Trump has been a near constant presence at her father's side throughout the presidential campaign and in the opening weeks of his administration, and now she's following him into the White House.

JAMIE GORELICK: She's going to continue to be the eyes and ears of her father and provide candid advice as she has for her entire adult life.

NORTHAM: Jamie Gorelick is Ivanka Trump's lawyer. She helped Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, navigate anti-nepotism laws when he joined the White House as a senior adviser to the president. Gorelick says the 35-year-old Ivanka Trump will deal with issues surrounding women in the workplace.

GORELICK: She will have an office in the West Wing and will use communications devices appropriate for the government so that all of her communications on government business are captured.

NORTHAM: Gorelick says Trump is also applying for security clearance and that the White House counsel is comfortable with Ivanka Trump's new unpaid role. Presidents have relied on members of the family, particularly first ladies, in the past. Hillary Clinton fueled concern over her role in trying to reform health care. But Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University, says giving this kind of access including classified information to adult children is unprecedented.

JULIAN ZELIZER: We've already seen her have access to leaders at very high-level meetings, with leaders of the world, leaders of the country, from the business community. And now you'll have the issue of classified intelligence. And there is one question. Why should someone in the family that doesn't have a formal role have access to this kind of information?

NORTHAM: Ivanka Trump issued a statement saying she will voluntarily abide by ethics rules as if she were a government employee. But Kathleen Clark, a specialist in government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, says that's not good enough. She says Trump should be required to comply with ethics rules to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

KATHLEEN CLARK: My biggest concern isn't so much whether Ivanka Trump as an individual abuses her access. My biggest concern is that this is yet another erosion of government ethics standards in this White House.

NORTHAM: Jackie Northam, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF THUNDERCAT SONG, "THEM CHANGES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.