Though it's not illegal for a government employee to "build a brand", it is illegal for Ivanka to take part in an activity that could benefit her, or her husband, financially. Also, the report noted that since Ivanka met with the Chinese government, 3.4 tons of her handbags, wallets and blouses have been exported from the U.S.to Shanghai and Hong Kong. And so, she stands to profit from the unique contacts and access her White House role provides.
Whether she does indeed avoid the appearance or substance of conflicts of interest remains to be seen.
Ivanka Trump has been on a charm offensive with China over the past few months, often with her Mandarin-learning daughter in tow. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago. He says it's especially important for an organization, like Ivanka Trump's, that's not actually manufacturing a product. Apparently, Ivanka (or Yi Wan Ka, as she is lovingly called in the Middle Kingdom) had three trademarks approved in China. Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, a left-leaning watchdog group, said that if Trump's brand was trying to expand operations or import from other countries, there could be "meaningful interaction" with foreign governments.
But she has kept her financial interest in the company, and retains the ability to approve or veto certain deals through her trust arrangement. Less than a week after meeting with the president, Trump reneged on his campaign promise to penalize China for being a "currency manipulator" and instead said that China hasn't manipulate its currency for months.
Which furthers the question of what the hell is Ivanka Trump doing in the White House? They are also covered by the Constitution's emoluments clause barring federal officials from accepting "any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince or foreign state". As for the Ivanka Trump items in her closet, she said, "I will be donating them".
Per the AP report, the first daughter - who now has an office in the West Wing - saw her company's imports skyrocket by an estimated 166 percent a year ago.
Sales hit record levels in 2017, despite boycotts and several stores limiting her merchandise.
Congressional members raised concerns about Kushner's attempt to conclude a deal with a company that has ties to the Chinese government to redevelop a tower in NY owned by a Kushner family company.
At Mar-o-Lago, the president's granddaughter sang for President Xi because, Ivanka Trump can be heard saying in the video, "we wanted you to feel at home". Norman Eisen, who served as President Barack Obama's chief White House ethics lawyer, says he would "never have allowed it". But it's not at all clear the necessary recusals are taking place, much less even being contemplated.
February 20, 2017: Ivanka Trump Marks LLC wins preliminary approval for a trademark covering branded leather handbags in China, where the company has 52 pending or registered trademarks listed in the government trademark database. Recusal from other matters, she said, would be decided on a "case-by-case" basis.