What Ivanka can do in the shadows: Donald Trump’s daughter says she won’t be his first lady — so what will she be?

What Ivanka can do in the shadows: Donald Trump's daughter says she won't be his first lady — so what will she be?
What Ivanka can do in the shadows: Donald Trump’s daughter says she won’t be his first lady — so what will she be?

President Donald Trump enters the White House with former Republican National Convention chair Reince Priebus as his chief of staff — and harbinger of hope for stability in an administration many fear will be as maverick and ad hoc as Trump’s campaign was — and Breitbart alum Steve Bannon as his chief strategist. But it’s Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, newly minted senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner — the duo that Donald Trump biographer Timothy O’Brien has snarkily dubbed “Javanka” — who some speculate will be the most powerful people in the White House, next to the president.

During the transition, all signs pointed to Ivanka stepping into the role of de facto first lady — including rumblings about an “Office of the First Family,” widely assumed to be Ivanka’s new HQ, in the East Wing, which is traditionally the first lady’s stronghold. Donald’s current wife Melania, his third, seemed less than eager during the campaign and after to assume the high-profile role of public initiative advocate and White House hostess. She won’t even move into the White House until this summer, at the earliest. Ivanka, seemingly poised to step into at least a role in the administration (if not quite an official one), recently announced a leave of absence from the Trump Organization as well as her own apparel and accessories company, and a significant divestment from the real estate company.

But Ivanka quashed the quasi-first lady speculation in an interview with ABC’s Deborah Roberts that aired on “20/20” Thursday.

“There’s one first lady, and Melania will be an unbelievable first lady,” said Ivanka with damning accuracy before laying on vague praise for her stepmother with her characteristic polish and poise. “I’m incredibly proud of her. She’s intelligent, warm, caring. She’s a remarkable person.”

Indeed, Melania looked the part on Inauguration Day in a baby blue Ralph Lauren ensemble that many said evoked a retro style reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy, most glamorous of all first ladies, and the first to engage her own press secretary. Although Wikipedia’s editors dutifully flipped the photo of Michelle Obama to Melania on the “First Lady” page moments after her husband was sworn in, Melania has given no public indication that she plans to do much officially, at least for the time being, now that the inauguration festivities are over. Which brings us back to the question of who will fill the first lady role in the Trump White House, one that is largely left up to the occupant to define but has become more and more prominent over the last century.

When Roberts asked Ivanka if she would take an office in the East Wing, she sidestepped the question. “Today my focus is really just moving to Washington, traveling…