HAMBURG, Germany (AP) — Why, yes, that was Ivanka Trump briefly filling her father’s seat at the Group of 20 summit, an international gathering that turned out to be quite the family affair for the Trumps.
The president’s daughter attracted particular attention after a member of the Russian delegation tweeted a photograph of her sitting in her father’s chair during an official summit event on Saturday.
A White House official said the president had stepped out of the room and that Ivanka Trump, a senior adviser, moved forward from the back of the room when the head of the World Bank discussed topics particularly relevant to her. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting.
Ivanka Trump also headlined her own event at the G-20 that attracted a lineup of world leaders. First lady Melania Trump also had a notable G-20 role. She was spotted at more than one of the president’s bilateral meetings. Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband and a senior adviser, also was present in a number of the president’s meeting.
It’s all part of Trump’s family-focused governing style that takes its cues from his decades running a family business.
The first lady was rarely seen or heard from during the early months of her husband’s administration. But during the president’s first two trips abroad, she’s taken on a far more prominent role.
Mrs. Trump introduced her husband ahead of his speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday and was spotted sitting in on Trump’s bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday. She had been invited to attend by the president, said her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.
Grisham added via email that it’s “not uncommon for the president to ask Mrs. Trump to be present for many different meetings.”
After spending much of Friday stuck in a local guest house because anti-globalization demonstrations prevented her from leaving the building, the first lady was dispatched by U.S. officials to try and help wrap up a marathon meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We went another hour after she came to see us, so clearly she failed,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later told reporters in a light-hearted after-action report.
Anita McBride, who served as Laura Bush’s chief of staff, said Mrs. Trump, who was born in Slovenia and is fluent in numerous languages, seemed especially comfortable in the role of representing the U.S. abroad. She applauded the efforts but noted it was rather unusual for spouses to join world leaders at formal summits.
“I think she is showing, ’I’m here, not to be a potted plant, but to be participating and further the objectives of a meeting of this type,” said McBride, adding: “There are not many people who could knock on the door and walk in on the president other than the president’s spouse. Good for her.”
Ivanka Trump, meanwhile, led an event to launch a new World Bank fund to help drive women’s entrepreneurship. The event drew a number of the summit’s biggest stars, with remarks by her father, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“She’s got her certain issues that she focuses on, and when those things come up, then that’s where she is and that’s what she likes to focus on,” Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations, told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” ″I think she sees herself as part of a public servant family, and she doesn’t want to waste this time by not putting forward some effort to try and help the world.”
Ivanka Trump’s move into her father’s seat at the summit went too far in the view of some critics, who took to Twitter to highlight the moment.
But Merkel told reporters that delegations decide for themselves who sits at the table when their president isn’t there, and she said Ivanka Trump’s actions were perfectly acceptable, given her role in the administration.
“Ivanka Trump belonged to the American delegation, so that is in line with what other delegations do. And it is known that she works at the White House and carries responsibility for certain initiatives,” she said.
In true family style, Ivanka Trump’s brother, Donald Trump Jr., also jumped to her defense.
“If the left is so “outraged” about Ivanka sitting in for a few minutes, maybe they’d be happier if I sub in for a while???” he tweeted.