Something started to spread over the summer when Donald Trump turned the White House lawn into a venue for the Republican National Convention finale and potentially a living, breathing Hatch Act violation. It wasn’t a COVID-19 outbreak—that would come later, at another White House celebration with scant masks and a misguided reliance on rapid tests. What circulated, in text-message exchanges from the Hamptons to Hollywood, was a split second of footage taken as cameras panned the crowd. In it, viewers caught sight of friends of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, including Wendi Deng Murdoch and Tico Mugrabi. Murdoch, a longtime close friend of the couple and Rupert’s ex-wife, wore a red and white floral dress and a red face mask that blared “MAGA” across the mouth.
Until then, the small group that remained friends with the president’s daughter and son-in-law had largely done so in private. Last fall, for instance, Jared and Ivanka hosted a group, including Murdoch and Mugrabi, oil heir Mikey Hess and fashion designer Misha Nonoo, LionTree founder Aryeh Bourkoff, the Trump siblings, and Josh Kushner without his wife, supermodel-entrepreneur Karlie Kloss, at Camp David to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. Details about the celebrations leaked out, but the guest list remained guarded, at least from the public. (It spread within their social circles, and friends raised eyebrows and privately ridiculed those who had chosen to attend, according to several people familiar with the conversations. Kloss, who did not, was spared. “Karlie is the anti-Ivanka,” a former friend explained. “Independent, self-made, naturally beautiful, and truly authentic.”) When the couple traveled to Rome for Hess and Nonoo’s wedding weeks earlier and paparazzi circled, guests scurried out of frame so as not to be caught in photos with them, these people said.
Those who remained in frame, as one person put it to me, served as something of a predicate for what’s to come now that all eyes are on the couple’s post-West Wing life. Among the social set that Jared and Ivanka would prefer to rejoin—the one they occupied aboard Adriatic-anchored yachts and on the carpet at the Met Gala—there is a sense of looking around for who, if anyone, will welcome them back. Case in point: an article speculating that Ivanka would attempt to reenter the New York art scene spread around their social circle and wound up in my inbox a dozen times. (For what it’s worth, people familiar with the first daughter’s art collection referred to it as “unimpressive before COVID,” but, post-COVID, “virtually unsaleable.”)
The vast array of responses I’ve collected over the past week have amounted to a few key takeaways: The couple will be accepted, whether in New York or Palm Beach, by a combination of society-adjacent couples and real-deal Republicans, but not by the group of people to which they would like to belong, and not without social consequences for those who do choose to pal around with Jivanka.
“They’ll be welcomed back by people who know the Trumps are as close as they’ll get to power,” one former friend told me. “But everyone with self-respect, a career, morals, respect for democracy, or who doesn’t want their friends to shame them both in private and public will steer clear.” As another longtime former acquaintance explained, “They will probably be welcomed by real estate types and that group of Upper East Side and Palm Beach families that read about themselves in Quest magazine but don’t matter.”
“There will always be private dinner parties for them to attend, but they will be the entertainment,” this person continued. “And Ivanka is no Princess Margaret and Jared is not the Duke of Windsor regaling guests with amusing bon mots to a captive audience. No one wants to hear about Sarah Huckabee’s pies or Steve Bannon’s shirts.”
The question of school for their three children looms too. According to several people familiar with the situation, earlier this fall Jared and Ivanka’s children switched out of the Jewish day school they’d attended since moving to D.C. There’s some debate over what happened. Some parents say it’s because the Trump–Kushners weren’t taking COVID safety seriously enough. (Given that there have been super-spreader events at the White House, the concern is understandable.) Others say the family wanted to put their kids into an in-person school. Regardless, if they do move back to New York, or to New Jersey or Florida, reactions from their fellow parents will likely be mixed. “I personally can’t imagine them going back to school [in New York or New Jersey], but there are people in those communities who would freaking love it,” a father of children in their former community told me. “I know there’s a pocket who would be super into it.” Another mom from their former community in New York and New Jersey added, “From an Israel and a financial perspective, some parents there support Trump. And they want to be near power and extreme wealth.” A second mom from a New York Jewish school said that travel would be a major concern, as Ivanka has hopped from one campaign event to the next in state after state, and Kushner has been traveling by his father-in-law’s side. “I don’t think you can send your kids to school if someone in your household has been out of the tristate area,” she said.
Which begs the question of how Ivanka and Jared will occupy themselves come January. Will they continue to campaign for Republicans? Will they be back and forth to Washington? Will they just want to sun themselves at Mar-a-Lago or in Tel Aviv? The couple has changed markedly since they left New York for Washington nearly four years ago. Ivanka on stage at the RNC, introducing her father as she had four years earlier, had hardened. She wasn’t the so-called moderating influence that so many people had wanted her to be, though that was never her plan. She had been publicly criticized by the world she left behind (and snubbed by world leaders who ignored her to her face), so there was no reason to cater to them anymore. She, like her father, had been buoyed by the crowds at events she keynoted. Those people in red hats who wait in line to see her—and, to be sure, there are many—are her people now. She was no longer the liberal outlier who privately disagreed with her father; they had become one and the same.
Plans have not yet been laid for what’s next, according to a person close to them. “Should someone in the family choose to run, they have a significant hold on the Republican Party, potentially for many, many, many years,” this person said. The same goes for the rest of her family, who see themselves as having a key role in the direction of the party, as something of kingmakers for what is to come. “As a result of working in the White House, Jared has made international trade and peace deals, he’s on good terms with people all across the world, and so the opportunities are significant. You can imagine the extent of his connections,” the person said, pointing to what some have suspected all along: that Kushner used his position in the White House to ensure a cozier life after the administration. Plus, this person added, President Trump could be back in 2024. Then, all bets are off.