Trump son-in-law Kushner to get top White House role

Lawyers to the president-elect have discovered a way for Kushner, who married the president-elect's daughter, Ivanka Trump, to work in the West Wing without violating anti-nepotism laws.

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January 9, 2017 20:33
3 minute read.
Husband of Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner outside Trump Tower in New York

Husband of Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner outside Trump Tower in New York. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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WASHINGTON – Jared Kushner is expected to be named in the coming days as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, President-elect Donald Trump, senior presidential transition officials confirmed on Monday.

Lawyers to the president- elect have discovered a way for Kushner, who married the president-elect’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, in 2009, to work in the West Wing without violating anti-nepotism laws that bar politicians from advancing the careers of their family members.

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Federal anti-nepotism law states that “a public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion or advancement in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official.”

But precedent has been laid for Kushner by Trump’s former rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who won a court case in the 1990s in her fight to chair a national task force on health care reform for her husband, then-president Bill Clinton. That case found that the White House was not under the jurisdiction of anti-nepotism laws.
Conway says Jared and Ivanka would benefit administration "tremendously", Dec. 15, 2016

Kushner has also retained the services of WilmerHale, a prominent Washington law firm, to protect him from legal challenges. The firm believes that Clinton’s experience is directly applicable, according to several media reports.

Speaking briefly to reporters at Trump Tower on Monday, the president-elect said he would be willing to speak about Kushner’s future role in the White House on Wednesday, when he is scheduled to hold his first news conference in over six months.

Trump had previously floated Kushner as a presidential envoy for Middle East peace.

Kushner and his wife are Orthodox.

“He knows the region, knows the people, knows the players,” Trump told The New York Times in November.

During the campaign, Kushner navigated his father-in-law through several critical moments on foreign policy.

He was one of the primary drafters of a speech Trump delivered to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the spring that was well-received by the audience.

“He’s not been a part of the policy-making world,” Dennis Ross, a senior Middle East diplomat and veteran of the George H. W. Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations, told The Jerusalem Post. “What I hear is that he’s going to have overarching responsibility – not some kind of Middle East or Israel-specific responsibility, but a broader responsibility across the board. In my words, I think he’s set to become something of a shadow chief of staff.”

Kushner has served as the point person in Trump’s inner circle on foreign policy matters, similar to his role throughout the campaign.

The role of senior adviser, however, broadens his role beyond the foreign policy space.

Kushner is expected to divest himself “substantially” from his assets and to resign as CEO of Kushner Companies, one WilmerHale partner told the Times over the weekend.

“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,” the lawyer said.

The article pointed out that while Trump has said Kushner would play a central role in dealing with Israel, Kushner’s company has received multiple loans from Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim.

The bank is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for allegations that it helped wealthy Americans hide assets and evade taxes.

“People I know who know him describe him as smart, as someone who will clearly learn what he needs to learn and will approach things thoughtfully, carefully, even analytically,” Ross said. “So those would all be descriptors that I would hope would be accurate and emblematic of how he’ll approach his responsibilities helping the new president.”

JTA contributed to this report.

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