President-elect Donald Trump appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to a key role as an advisor in the Trump administration, according to Reuters. Jared married Ivanka Trump in 2009 and played a pivotal role for Trump during the campaign.
The transition team stated Monday that Kushner will be a key advisor working in the areas of Middle East policy and trade.
Kushner sought legal counsel in case the appointment was in violation of anti-nepotism law, according to transition officials. Kushner will not be paid for the job, and unlike Cabinet appointees, the position will not require U.S. Senate confirmation.
Trump said in a statement on Monday that Kushner was a “tremendous asset and trusted advisor throughout the campaign and transition.”
Kushner will be working very closely with the incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior strategist Steve Bannon by advising the new president on a number of key issues. Officials stated, as reported by the Washington Post, that the primary focus at first would be trade policy and Middle East issues.
This move is in spite of the fact that Kushner has no previous political experience or background.
Trump explained away these questions, saying, “Jared is a successful real-estate person, but I think he likes politics even more.”
Although there is nothing unique about an appointment of a family member to a key position, this move does raise some questions concerning just how much the Trump empire may influence the presidency.
Most notably, Democrat President John F. Kennedy appointed his brother Robert as attorney general. But this appointment required congressional approval, and President Kennedy didn’t have the massive business holdings of President-elect Trump.
Kushner had previously stated no conflict of interest and said he will be cutting all ties with the Trump organization.
New York lawyer Jamie Gorelick, who once served as deputy attorney general for President Bill Clinton, helped advise Kushner and claimed the new post does not violate a 1967 anti-nepotism law.
She maintains that in 1978, Congress authorized the president to hire White House personal and staff “without regard” to federal personnel laws and that previous court rulings determined the White House was not an agency according to the anti-nepotism law.
Gorelick went on to say that while others may hold a different view on the appointment of Kushner, the law was clearly on their side, stating “I just think we have the better argument.”
Democrat Bill Clinton raised brows and spurred controversy in 1993 with his own appointment of his wife, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, to spearhead healthcare reform.
Six Democrats on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee do have reservations on the appointment and stated late on Monday that they had written the Justice Department and Government Ethics committee asking to review these concerns about conflicts of interest with the Kushner appointment.
Gorelick indicated she consulted the Office of Government Ethics, and any perceived conflict will be resolved as Kushner takes steps to divest substantial assets from the Trump holdings and real estate.
In accordance with law, Gorelick said Kushner will resign as chief executive of the Kushner Companies and as the publisher of the New York Observer newspaper and will divest from any interest in other domestic and foreign investments he may have.
Kushner has also agreed to recuse himself from participating in any matter that would have any effect on his remaining financial interests.
This includes real estate, Ivanka Trump’s interest in the Trump hotel in Washington, and the Ivanka Trump Brand fashion business. Additionally, Kushner will file a complete public financial disclosure form.
Kushner’s willingness for complete disclosure and ethics appear to be a “positive step,” according to Norman Eisen, former ethics chief under President Obama.
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