She shed her "I'm going to be a daughter" persona
"I'm listening, I'm learning, I'm defining the ways in which I think I'll be able to have impact," she said
Sitting on a German stage alongside some of the world’s most powerful women, Ivanka Trump was at once at home and breaking new ground for herself.
The high stakes in Berlin were apparent: traveling with senior staff on behalf of the White House at the invitation of a foreign leader isn’t exactly a low-pressure event. She was on the front page of multiple newspapers in the lead-up to her visit.
And it was clear she felt the importance of the event. Next to International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde on the panel, she sat with one arm crossed in front of her body. But if she was nervous beyond that, she didn’t show it.
A month into her White House post, Trump traveled to Berlin at the direct invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, participating in the W-20 summit alongside the Chancellor, visiting US Embassy staff and families, touring an apprenticeship program at Siemens, paying her respects at the Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe and dining with Merkel and other W-20 participants. She also, for the first time in her new role, took questions from the press.
Trump has largely laid low during the first 100 days of her father’s presidency, making rare public appearances on panels and one brief speech to students at an event supporting STEM eduction, as well as a single interview with CBS News.
But Tuesday signaled a coming out. Forced by direct questioning, she shed her “I’m going to be a daughter” persona and instead spoke on behalf of her father’s administration. Though she maintained her signature poise, there were awkward moments when she was hissed at by the audience.
The lack of clarity about the role she is now playing was front and center.
“What is your role?” asked panel moderator Miriam Meckel, editor-in-chief of “Wirtschaftswoche.” “To whom are you represented? Your father, the American people, or your business?”
“Well, certainly not the latter, and I am rather unfamiliar with this role as well, as it is quite new to me,” she said, admitting, as she has before, that her place in the administration is unprecedented and unfamiliar. No immediate family member of the President has ever served the White House in a formal capacity.
While Trump spoke knowledgeably about women in the workplace – an issue she’s made a key priority – her passion for the topic was apparent, and her remarks organic, seemingly not rehearsed. She cited statistics with ease and explained that she’s seeking counsel from a variety of sources.
“I’m listening, I’m learning, I’m defining the ways in which I think I’ll be able to have impact,” she said.
Early in the panel, Trump faced a hostile crowd as she discussed her father’s advocacy for working women. Meckel asked her about it directly, and Trump defended her father based on her “personal experience,” and that of those who have worked with him.
She was met with audible heckling by the German audience.
Later in the day, Trump took questions from the traveling American media outlets – a first in her new role.
Trump made a point of personally greeting each reporter, firmly shaking the hands of those assembled and introducing herself as “Ivanka” – a highly unusual thing to do, indicating that she’s still relatively new to the game of politics.
Asked by a reporter about the hissing, Trump brushed it off.
“Politics is politics, as I’ve learned. There are many different viewpoints and people hold different opinions and perspectives,” she said.
Was the moderator too tough on her? “I’m used to it, it’s fine.”
Trump up close: Photos from the first 100 days
She was also gracious and mindful of her German hosts, praising Merkel’s recent equal pay legislation during the panel discussion. And as she toured the Siemens training center, she commended the country on its commitment to apprenticeships.
“A skill-based education is an enormous priority” for the Trump administration, she said. “Germany has been blazing the path.”
Trump was, however, cautious about not overstepping. Asked whether she defines herself as a feminist, she was careful to say she does, but “in very broad terms.”
“I think of that as believing in the social, political, and economic equality for all genders. But I do think that there is a feeling of exclusion for a lot of women, if they deviate in one small way and one small area, and I think one of the things that we have to do, is we have to come together, we have to have discussions such as this one where we can respectfully disagree with one another,” she said.
“I do think there’s obligation upon us and upon all women to support and to hold each other up and to be inclusive.”
One telling moment: She seemed to reveal that there may be more places where she may disagree with her father than she lets on.
“He’s encouraged me to fully lean into this opportunity, and come into the White House and be by his side as we think through these complex issues,” she said. “Even here today, we all acknowledged the problems and we have very different views on the right solution.”