Perhaps, you have been pondering what, exactly, it is that Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, do in their renovated West Wing offices in the White House.
Well, let's see. Ivanka advises on many personnel decisions. But wait! The White House vacancy rate is 51 percent. People are quitting at a remarkable rate. And their jobs are remaining empty, either because the president doesn't care if the jobs are filled or qualified people don't want to wreck their careers by working in this chaotic administration.
One of Ivanka's suggestions was that a former aide in her fashion accessory empire advise Melania Trump on inaugural festivities. Oops. The woman's firm ended up with millions of dollars, and she got fired.
And then there was the recommendation that former FBI director James Comey be fired. Who can forget the resulting chaos and appointment of, wait for it, Robert Mueller, special counsel. That has led to the investigation of whether the whole issue of Russia working so hard to win the election for Trump might have something to do with money and a shining Trump Tower Moscow on the hill. Indictments are still pouring in.
How about Jared, you say? His biggest portfolio, aside from running the entire West Wing, was Mideast peace. But after Jared, who is best friends with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, now mired in scandal, recommended that the U.S. embassy be moved to Jerusalem, the peace process fell apart. The Palestinians petulantly but quite correctly observed that Kushner did not seem to be an honest broker.
Jared, who advises Trump on everything, according to Trump, is also in charge of technological innovation. But the Federal Communication Commission decided that startup Internet companies will have a huge disadvantage because the big guys now get to charge more and decide which websites are fast and which are slow. Something called net neutrality is dead, which means your Netflix streaming and Amazon shopping could either become unbearably slow or cost you a lot more.
Ivanka also advises her father on immigration matters. The new policy is that immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S., both legally and illegally, may have their children snatched out of their arms, only to disappear while their parents are deported in order to punish them. Ivanka's reaction was to post an adorable mother-child picture of her holding one of her own little munchkins. From now on, people running for their lives from gang or domestic violence in their home countries will not be eligible for asylum.
Speaking of the Kushner children, one was taught to sing a song in Mandarin before the Chinese premier visiting Grandpa's home in Mar-a-Lago. Yes, that was the week Ivanka got millions of dollars' worth of new, difficult-to-get licenses to sell her handbags and shoes in China.
We don't know whether or not Ivanka and Jared advised Trump to go isolationist by pulling out of the climate change pact, refuse to let the U.S. join a trans-Pacific partnership trade deal, scuttle the deal that kept Iran from getting nuclear weapons, give ruthless North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un – who has nuclear bombs – an international coming out party without any concessions or blow up the G-7 alliance of our best allies.
We do know Ivanka and Jared have been extremely busy socializing, traveling (remember how exciting it was when she represented us at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang?) and counting their money. According to the White House, last year, while they were redecorating their cushy White House offices, the couple took in at least $82 million in outside income.
You read that correctly. Eighty-two million dollars.
From the now highly popular Trump hotel in Washington, a lure to foreign potentates from all corners of the world, Ivanka got $3.9 million. Her husband's company bought an apartment complex in New Jersey last year and made in excess of $5 million in income from it. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.
But even while the Kushners continued getting richer from outside enterprises, as did the president, and even as we close our eyes to all the conflicts of interest that Trump insists don't apply, we must not forget the triumvirate's generosity in not taking the salaries that usually go with the titles "senior White House adviser" and "president."
Charity begins at home.
– Ann McFeatters is a columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.