Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President-elect Donald Trump, has been appointed as a senior White House adviser. Transition officials have said Kushner will divest himself of large swathes of his commercial holdings.
US President-elect Donald Trump on Monday named his son-in-law to a position of senior adviser in his administration, even as questions swirl around the legality of the move.
Jared Kushner was a close adviser to Trump throughout his presidential campaign, and will focus on trade negotiations and Middle East issues once Trump occupies the White House, according to an official from the transition team.
In a statement announcing the move, Trump said: “Jared has been a tremendous asset and trusted adviser throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration.
“Kushner will work closely with chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon to execute president-elect Trump’s agenda,” the statement said.
A lawyer for Kushner argued that a federal anti-nepotism law, which prohibits officials from appointing relatives to government positions, does not apply to him – a son-in-law. Kushner is married to Trump’s oldest daughter, Ivanka.
“Mr. Kushner is committed to complying with federal ethics laws and we have been consulting with the Office of Government Ethics regarding the steps he would take,” said Jamie Gorelick, a partner at the law firm of WilmerHale, in a statement. “Although plans are not finalized, Mr. Kushner would resign from his position at Kushner Companies and divest substantial assets in accordance with federal guidelines.”
Gorelick added that Kushner “would recuse [himself] from particular matters that would have a direct and predictable effect on his remaining financial interests. He would also abide by federal rules requiring impartiality in particular matters involving specific parties.”
The “New York Times” reported that his title could be adjusted to fit within the confines of the law.
Officials from the Trump transition team also dispelled reports that Ivanka Trump would also be taking a formal position in the White House. Her immediate focus is moving her family from New York to Washington DC, according to officials, although they did not to rule out her taking on a role in the future.
Vast real estate holdings
Kushner, like his father-in-law, is a major New York-based real estate developer with a vast web of business dealings that pose potential conflicts of interest. Kushner Companies took part in deals worth in approximately $7 billion (6.6 billion euros) over the past decade.
A federal nepotism law was passed in 1967 after Former President John F. Kennedy appointed his brother, Robert, attorney general in 1961. The law prohibits any president from hiring a relative. Trump’s advisers believe they have more wiggle room with a would-be appointment to the White House, as opposed to a Cabinet position.
While Trump himself is also facing unprecedented conflict of interest questions, some of his supporters believe such questions regarding family members apply only to Cabinet positions, not jobs in the White House.
“The anti-nepotism law apparently has an exception if you want to work in the West Wing, because the president is able to appoint his own staff,” Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said in December. “The president does have discretion to choose a staff of his liking.”
Conway and others have cited as an example former President Bill Clinton and his decision to put his wife Hillary in charge of health care reform in the 1990s.
bik, dm/cmk (Reuters, AP, AFP, NYT)