Donald Trump isn’t given credit for much – but one area in which he’s certainly performed far better than expected has been his hiring of women.
It was widely predicted that his presidential bid was finished when a lurid recording leaked in which he bragged to a male TV colleague about groping women — prompting a string of victims to come forward and accuse him of targeting them in the past.
Women, who marched in their millions in protest, feared such a shameless misogynist would marginalise them.
And yet, as shown by the confirmation last week of 28-year-old former model Hope Hicks as his Director of Communications, the President has surrounded himself with female advisers.
What’s more, in the non-stop bloodbath of the Trump administration, it’s the men who are losing their jobs (on Wednesday, it was the turn of long-term aide Keith Schiller) and the women who are moving up the ladder.
This is no coincidence, say Washington insiders. Most of the White House egotists and drama queens are male — while the women have kept their heads down and got on with the job. Most of them are mothers, so well used to toddler tantrums. Some say this means they’re better suited to deal with Mr Trump’s notoriously short fuse. So who are the female winners at the White House?
BUS DRIVER’S GIRL MADE MILLIONS IN BANKING
DINA POWELL: DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
A former partner at Goldman Sachs, Dina Habib Powell, 44, is classic American Dream material
When Mr Trump and his team momentously ordered a missile strike at a Syrian airbase in revenge for a chemical weapons attack, there was only one woman in the crowded makeshift war room at the Trump Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida — and that was Dina Powell.
A former partner at Goldman Sachs, Dina Habib Powell, 44, is classic American Dream material.
Born in Egypt, her army captain father took his Coptic Christian family to Dallas, Texas, where he worked as a bus driver and opened a convenience store. Ms Powell remains a fluent Arabic speaker, which has served her well.
She went into Republican politics early. At 29, she became the youngest person to run a president’s personnel department, under George W Bush. Mr Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, described her as ‘one of the most capable people I know’.
Post-Bush, she went off to make mega-bucks at Goldman Sachs for a decade. She earned $6.2 million running its charity spending in the final 18 months before she moved to the White House as an economic adviser to Ivanka Trump, on a salary of $179,700 (£135,000).
She’s with Ivanka at the more liberal end of the administration and is one of the few senior Trumpites who actually gets on with Democrats. Earlier this summer, she was on the shortlist to become Mr Trump’s chief of staff.
THE APPRENTICE WHO GOT HIRED
OMAROSA MANIGAULT: ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP
Omarosa Manigault, 43, is ‘widely despised’ in the West Wing, it is claimed
Omarosa Manigault, 43, is ‘widely despised’ in the West Wing, U.S. news website The Daily Beast reported last week.
Colleagues reportedly accuse the Trump administration’s sole African-American of high-handed behaviour and laziness.
They allege she disrupts meetings with pointless interruptions and micromanages the White House’s PR. Worse, the report claims that she’s prone to barging into the Oval Office and distracting the President with examples of bad press. Fellow staff question what she does for her $179,700 salary — the top rate for White House staff.
Her unpopularity isn’t really surprising given she made her name as a reviled contestant on the first series of Mr Trump’s reality TV series, The Apprentice, in 2004.
Insiders say she has only one friend at the White House — but given that it’s Mr Trump, her position is safe. He trusts few people but they talk regularly on the phone, even in the middle of the night.
SURVIVOR WHO PACKS A PUNCH
KELLYANNE CONWAY: COUNSELLOR TO THE PRESIDENT
Mr Trump’s colourful former campaign manager is the Great Survivor of his administration.
The 50-year-old mother-of-four and chief cheerleader for Mr Trump was accused of breaching decorum by kneeling casually in her high heels on the Oval Office’s cream sofa while the President received an official delegation of black leaders earlier this year.
Ms Conway, who spent a year at Oxford University, notoriously coined the phrase ‘alternative facts’ to describe White House fibs
That’s the least of her crimes, say critics, who accuse her of twisting the facts outrageously to defend Trump. Ms Conway, who spent a year at Oxford University, notoriously coined the phrase ‘alternative facts’ to describe White House fibs about the size of Mr Trump’s inauguration crowd. Trump was reportedly delighted.
Still, even some opponents cannot help warming to her dry wit. When asked how she would balance a West Wing job with her four children, she replied: ‘I don’t play golf, and I don’t have a mistress, so I have a lot of time that these other men don’t.’
It helps that Ms Conway, daughter of a casino worker and proud possessor of a pronounced New Jersey accent, is a tough cookie. She dealt with brawling men at a Trump inaugural ball by punching one three times in the face.
‘Men behaving badly is nothing new to me,’ said Ms Conway, who shares a $6 m (£4.4m) home in New Jersey with her lawyer husband, and says her secret is that ‘I think like a man and behave like a lady’.
DEFENDER WITH A WITHERING SNEER
SARAH HUCKABEE SAUNDERS: PRESS SECRETARY
Given what Mr Trump has said about women in his time, it’s ironic that one of them now has the unenviable job of trying to defend his bizarre proclamations at the White House’s daily Press briefing.
Ms Sanders, 35, daughter of Bible-bashing former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, took over from the hapless Sean Spicer.
Ms Sanders, 35, daughter of Bible-bashing former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, took over from the hapless Sean Spicer
The mother-of-three tends to show her contempt for an anti-Trump question with a raised-eyebrow sneer, but her responses are often limited to the stock: ‘I’ll get back to you.’ Research has shown she hardly ever does.
Some have suggested that Ms Sanders wants press briefings to be off-camera because she simply hasn’t a firm enough idea what’s going on. When Trump tweeted a tawdry jibe about a woman TV presenter, Mr Huckabee observed that the President ‘makes my daughter’s job very difficult’.
MRS T FAN TIPPED FOR THE VERY TOP
NIKKI HALEY: U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UN
Like Elaine Chao (transportation secretary) and Betsy DeVos (education), Nikki Haley isn’t technically part of the White House women’s posse.
However, the Indian-American former governor of South Carolina clearly has the President’s ear and is considered the team’s ‘breakout star’.
Like Elaine Chao (transportation secretary) and Betsy DeVos (education), Nikki Haley isn’t technically part of the White House women’s posse
At times, it has appeared that Ms Haley, 45, rather than Mr Trump or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, is directing U.S. foreign policy as she has dominated headlines with forceful denunciations of Russia, Syria and North Korea.
This can be dangerous as ‘The Donald’ likes to be seen to be in charge, but so far she has avoided the fate of male colleagues who have tried to hog the limelight.
The daughter of Sikh immigrants, she overcame deeply entrenched racial barriers growing up in a Deep South town that had never before encountered the religion.
A former bookkeeper for her family’s clothing business, Ms Haley venerates Margaret Thatcher. Her Maggie-style tough talking, such as telling the UN Security Council that North Korea was ‘begging for war’, sometimes risks going too far.
Ms Haley, who has two children, insists she ‘can’t imagine running for the White House’ but many believe she will.
LIBERAL TURNED FIREBRAND
JULIA HAHN: SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT
Hardline nationalist Steve Bannon may have been swept out of the White House for being too controversial, but his former ‘right-hand woman’, Julia Hahn, 26, still advises Mr Trump on immigration.
The virulently anti-establishment Ms Hahn has pointed to America’s loss of a ‘white majority’.
The virulently anti-establishment Ms Hahn has pointed to America’s loss of a ‘white majority’
She keeps such a low profile that the U.S. media has repeatedly used the wrong photo of her, mistakenly proferring a picture of a German TV presenter of the same name.
Friends from her affluent Jewish upbringing in Los Angeles are dumb-founded by the Right-wing firebrand she has become. They recall a liberal type who once organised a fundraiser to bring foreign orphans to the U.S. and denounced holding suspects without trial at Guantanamo Bay.
But at university in Chicago, she got a job with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, sparking her political transformation.
EX-MODEL WHO’S A TRUE BELIEVER
HOPE HICKS: DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS
Donald Trump prizes loyalty and hard work above all else and he gets both from Ms Hicks, his new Communications Chief. The 28-year-old former Ralph Lauren model insists on calling him ‘Mr Trump’ or ‘Sir’ despite working for him for years. He calls her the ‘Hopester’.
Donald Trump prizes loyalty and hard work above all else and he gets both from Ms Hicks
After dabbling in modelling, the former lacrosse champion grew pally with the Trumps when she did the PR for Ivanka’s fashion business. She became Mr Trump’s spokesman when he launched his presidential campaign, despite admitting she knew virtually nothing about politics. She’s now on the top rung of White House salaries, earning £135,000 a year.
In May, the publicity shy Ms Hicks made a rare statement to defend Trump from claims he demeaned his staff. He ‘has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy’, she gushed.
He also had ‘an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible’.
Critics said Ms Hicks sounded brain-washed. Insiders insist she believes it all. Her greatest asset, says former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, is that she ‘totally understands’ Mr Trump.
THE DONALD’S FAVOURITE CHILD
IVANKA TRUMP: SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT
Clearly Trump’s favourite child, 35-year-old Ivanka, many say, is also his most trusted adviser
Clearly Trump’s favourite child, 35-year-old Ivanka, many say, is also his most trusted adviser.
While her two brothers are left holding the reins of the family business, she and husband Jared Kushner, another top aide, are assumed to be trying to exert a moderating influence on the hot-headed Mr Trump.
She has reportedly swayed Dad on issues from the bombing of Syria to abandoning a mooted anti-gay rights executive order. But she failed to win him over on climate change or abortion.
Last week she complained liberals have ‘unrealistic expectations’ of what she can achieve. A recent report claimed she is mockingly referred to as the ‘princess royal’ by White House staff. Insiders say they are not only irked by the shameless nepotism here but also by a vindictive streak the Kushners reportedly show to those who get in their way.
FIRST LADY WHO’D RATHER NOT BE …
Mr Trump’s wife spent the first five months of his presidency back in their New York home. Such is her rumoured unhappiness about her husband being President that some thought she’d never move into the White House. But she’s there now.
Although she barely featured in his election campaign, leaving Ivanka to play First Lady-in-waiting (and sparking claims of a rivalry between them), aides insist she offers her husband candid advice, and she’s reportedly had success in making him use Twitter less.
Still, there’s a widespread perception that she hates being First Lady — especially when she looks so miserable at official events.
Mr Trump’s wife spent the first five months of his presidency back in their New York home