All eyes on Ivanka's role in the White House

Businessmen keen to gain access to the new First Family are putting in bids of US$60,000 or more for a chance to have coffee with Ms Trump at a charity fund-raising event. The auction might be shut down though because of concerns that the fund-raiser
Businessmen keen to gain access to the new First Family are putting in bids of US$60,000 or more for a chance to have coffee with Ms Trump at a charity fund-raising event. The auction might be shut down though because of concerns that the fund-raiser could overstep ethical bounds.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • A month before Mr Donald Trump becomes President, the chattering classes in New York and Washington are abuzz with signs that his elegant daughter Ivanka will play an active role in his White House.

Ms Trump, currently a vice-president in the family business, and her real estate developer and publisher husband have been a constant presence at the President-elect's side since his election victory on Nov 8.

CNN reported that the 35-year-old mother of three is poised to play an active role as an adviser, assume some duties normally assigned to the First Lady and get office space in the East Wing of the White House.

Ms Trump and her husband Jared Kushner - who has been credited with being the brains behind the scenes that helped get his father-in-law elected - have been reportedly house-hunting for days in Washington.

While Mr Trump's third wife, Melania, is still expected to play a role, she is planning to live in New York with the couple's young son at least until the school year ends next year.

"We would benefit tremendously by having them inside the administration if in fact that can happen," top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway told reporters on Thursday.

The New York Times reported that a charity auction is giving bidders a creative way to gain one-on-one access to the new First Family.

London-based investment manager Ozan Ozkural bid nearly US$60,000 (S$87,000) to have a cup of coffee with Ms Trump for a charity event she was set to host.

He said he wanted to meet her to gain insight into matters such as Mr Trump's possible future dealings with Turkey and other countries where Mr Ozkural invests.

Mr Ozkural is one of several high-profile bidders in a feverish competition to win time with one of Mr Trump's children.

Others taking part in the bidding include the owner of a Tex-Mex restaurant chain from Houston, who bid US$68,000 and wants to press the President-elect, through his daughter, about immigration policy.

But they might not get a chance to "Enjoy Coffee with Ivanka Trump in NYC or DC" by winning the auction, hosted by a New York company called Charitybuzz.

The money was to go to a foundation led by Ms Trump's brother, Eric, to benefit St Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee.

But Mr Eric Trump told the New York Times that he was considering shutting down the bidding - 10 days after it started - after The Times raised questions about the auction.

The charitable fund-raising by Mr Trump's children is problematic, ethics lawyers said, because of the unusual role that they are playing in the transition process.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2016, with the headline 'All eyes on Ivanka's role in the White House'. Print Edition | Subscribe