Lay aside policy disputes, “conservatism vs. nationalism” arguments, squabbling about Trump’s character, etc. Consider this tweet, in which he addresses the news of Nordstrom’s dropping Ivanka’s fashion line, in isolation. Does anyone on either side of the Trump divide honestly believe posting this is a good idea? Even from a standpoint of pure self-interest, how does this make Trump’s life easier rather than harder?
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
Says Ben Howe, “Donald Trump has officially criticized Nordstrom more than he’s criticized Russia.”
The biggest scandal trap for Trump at this stage of his presidency lies in conflicts of interest with his businesses. The media’s keeping an eye on that trust he promised to set up to separate himself from his private ventures, but right now the separation’s so thin you can barely see daylight through it. He’s using a revocable trust, not an irrevocable one, which means Trump can reclaim control of his assets at any time. And it’s being managed not by independent trustees, who’d be empowered to make decisions free from influence by Trump himself, but by two of the people who are closest to him in the world — Donald Jr and Allen Weisselberg, CFO of the Trump Organization. If Democrats were in charge of the House or Senate right now, there would almost certainly already be ethics hearings ongoing; if they retake either chamber in 2018, investigations into cronyism and Trump profiting from his office will be at the top of their agenda. Until then, Trump should be doing everything in his power to create at least the appearance of separation from his family’s business interests, to reassure the public that he’s focused solely on the public good and that his family’s not cashing in on their new political influence.
Instead, he attacks a company in front of millions of people because one of his daughter’s revenue streams just got cut off. Smart.
What makes this more bizarre is that Ivanka herself announced weeks ago that she would begin shedding her own business ties, precisely because she didn’t want to be accused of conflicts of interest herself as the daughter of the president and wife to one of his senior advisors. (As of six days ago, she still hadn’t filed the paperwork.) That was a gesture designed to prove the Trump family’s good faith in serving the public exclusively, not themselves, in their positions of power — ruined today, in a flash, by dad’s dopey tweet. And for what it’s worth, Nordstrom’s has insisted repeatedly that it didn’t drop Ivanka’s products due to any political objection it might have to the Trump administration. They were dropped due to poor performance. The decline in demand for Ivanka merch may itself have a political dimension insofar as anti-Trumpers have targeted her products for a boycott, but this isn’t a case of the company having tried to pick a political fight with the president — not that it would justify Trump grumbling about the damage to his daughter’s bank account even if it had. Serious question for the White House: Should a company continue to carry Trump goods even if those goods are selling poorly, purely in the interest of staying on the president’s good side? Because that feels a little banana-republic-y.
To sum up, Trump just reminded the world that yes, they should worry about him using his bully pulpit to line his family’s pockets, and he put companies who don’t already carry Trump products on notice that they should resist the urge to do so for fear of running into political trouble with the president later. Aces all around. And one more thing: What does he mean when he says that Ivanka’s always pushing him “to do the right thing”? You don’t want to read too much into a father’s testimony to his daughter’s good heart, but it’s widely understood that Ivanka is a liberal influence in the administration. She’s the one who pushed him to guarantee federal paid maternity leave and she and her husband reportedly ensured that Trump kept Obama’s 2014 executive order on gay rights in place. She and Jared Kushner are also allegedly more receptive to the idea of government action on climate change than most mainstream Republicans are. Which traditional Republican policies would the president say constitute the “wrong thing,” contra Ivanka’s positions? Besides free trade and skepticism of Russia, I mean.
Update: The icing on the cake — the official White House “POTUS” account has retweeted Trump’s plea to Nordstrom’s to make Ivanka’s brand great again.
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) February 8, 2017
Update: Here’s Spicer getting sucked into this at today’s briefing, insisting that Nordstrom’s dropping Ivanka’s line is a “direct attack” on Trump’s policies. A retailer would have to have brain damage to do business with the Trumps after this, knowing that this is the treatment they’ll get if they ever think of ending the partnership.
White House: Nordstrom's business decision to drop Ivanka Trump's line was "direct attack" on Pres. Trump, daughter. https://t.co/azw1wfpiNP
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) February 8, 2017