Lara Trump's White House duties 'unprecedented,' 'inappropriate': Watchdogs
Lara Trump, an animal advocate and Eric Trump's wife, is acting as senior campaign advisor for Trump 2020 and meddling in policy interests.
Move over, Princess Royal. Another Trump is holding high-level meetings: Lara Trump. President Trump’s daughter-in-law, an advisor to his campaign, is crossing the line between campaigning and serving the public, watchdog groups said.
President Trump’s 2020 campaign is underway and Lara Trump, married to Eric Trump, has held half a dozen meetings with government officials including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Veteran Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe and Representative Ron DeSantis. The Washington Examiner reports the meetings are at least in part about getting the Trump administration behind a $10 million federal initiative for veterans.
In October, Lara Trump met with Cabinet appointees, advisers to POTUS and lawmakers for a roundtable talk.
"I cannot remember something like that ever happening in my time," David Gergen, a presidential adviser who has served in four White House administrations, told Newsweek. "This White House is being run like a family business, and campaigning is their bread and butter."
But involvement in policy and using access to the White House to rouse support for initiatives while acting as senior adviser to President Trump’s campaign is “unprecedented,” the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told Newsweek.
This is a Trump cabinet official tweeting an endorsement for a Trump campaign official accessing Trump cabinet officials. https://t.co/ygU3w0v5GL— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) October 30, 2017
"This is not normal," Virginia Canter, ethics counsel for the executive branch at CREW who worked under former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, told Newsweek. "To the extent that somebody is actively engaged in political campaigning, it would be inappropriate for them to be sitting in and heading White House meetings. It raises a lot of concerns; you get the appearance that the individual is moving policy for political purposes rather than the public interest."
The main initiative in question is a partnership between the Veterans Affairs agency and the Humane Society of the United States, which would provide veterans therapy dogs.
DeSantis wrote the Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act and the bill is making its way through the Senate.
Lara Trump also met with Ryan Zinke a number of times about protecting 70,000 wild horses on Bureau of Land Management property.
The roundtable discussion was "just the latest from our engagement with Lara," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. "It was Lara's meeting at the White House. She's been there several times to push for this, and you have a lot of senior White House officials listening to Lara…she is the running point for a lot of these issues.”
Love of animals aside, Lara Trump is blurring lines, the watchdogs say.
"If you’re serving on a campaign while hosting meetings at the White House, nobody ever knows what hat you’re officially wearing," Gergen said. “You may be there for a meeting about pets for vets, but those in the meeting will know that if they cross the president’s daughter-in-law, it could cost them their standing with the administration. It's not just about puppies—it's about politics.”
Thrilled to work towards helping our great veterans & the millions of pets in shelters! Win win for all! https://t.co/DkQ6LUtfwT— Lara Trump (@LaraLeaTrump) October 20, 2017
"I have serious concerns about her credibility," Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) added, Newsweek reported. Lara Trump is not an official White House employee, but walking a precarious line as she acts like one.
"It's pretty clear people are going to her not because she has policy expertise but because she’s related to the president," Lieu continued. "There’s no reason why she would have any special expertise other than she's a relative.”