There’s been quite a bit of attention paid in recent months to Donald Trump’s adult children, who’ve taken on a controversial role in their father’s transition team, making the president-elect’s conflict-of-interest problems considerably worse.
But when it comes to post-inaugural influence, it’s not just Trump’s adult kids who’ll need scrutiny; it’s also his son-in-law .
President-elect Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who emerged as a key figure in the Republican’s successful 2016 campaign, will be named senior adviser to the president, the campaign announced Monday. […]
Kushner was an influential behind the scenes confidant to his father-in-law during last year’s election and has continued to be a leading voice in Trump’s transition to the White House. But a number of legal questions potentially complicate the billionaire real estate developer’s role in the incoming administration.
Transition officials insist there’s no controversy here, but there are three main angles to keep an eye on.
First, appointing Kushner to this post may not be entirely legal. Anti-nepotism laws have been on the books for decades, limiting a president’s power to appoint his relatives to powerful governmental posts. As a Washington Post report noted, it’s “not completely clear whether this law applies specifically to White House staff,” and Kushner is taking steps – including foregoing a federal salary – to help mitigate potential legal trouble.
It’s a safe bet there will be a lawsuit anyway, just as there was when then-President Clinton appointed his wife to lead a health care task force in 1993.
Second, there are the potential conflicts of interest. Kushner has said he’ll step down from his real-estate company and sell many of his assets, but as the New York Times reported , “[B]ecause he plans to sell to his brother or to a family trust controlled by his mother, some ethics lawyers interviewed questioned how meaningful the divestiture would be.”
What’s more, just last week, Kushner was working on “a deal with a major Chinese financial group with close ties to the Chinese government. The Kushner family business has done billions of dollars of business with foreign companies that threatens to complicate his role at the White House.”
Finally, presidents usually appoint senior White House advisors who have some kind of political or governmental expertise. Kushner is the 36-year-old head of his family’s real-estate company, with no relevant experience in government.
Indeed, the transition office’s press statement announcing Kushner’s role as a senior advisor to the incoming president said he’ll “work closely with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon to execute President-elect Trump’s agenda.” And while I’m sure they’ll try, Priebus and Bannon have as much experience in government as Kushner – which is to say, none.
We can go even further down this road. The president-elect, the first in American history to have literally no background in any kind of public service at any level, will have a chief of staff, a chief strategist, a chief counselor, and a senior advisor with a combined total of zero days of governing experience. Literally, none.
It’ll be quite an experiment in how amateurs perform in the White House.