Donald Trump wants his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to play a role in his upcoming administration — which ethics lawyers say would likely violate a law against nepotism.
A senior Trump aide told the Wall Street Journal that Kushner was likely to take a job in his father-in-law’s administration, but two ethics lawyers told Politico that arrangement would present legal challenges.
“He cannot take a take a job in the White House — highly inappropriate,” said Richard Painter, who served as ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration. “I don’t know why they think they can. Just read the language in the statute.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a 1967 law prohibiting public officials, including lawmakers and the president, from hiring relatives.
The law is widely seen as a response to Robert F. Kennedy’s service as attorney general in his brother’s administration — which Trump allies have cited as justification for Kushner’s role.
“For goodness sake, JFK put his brother over at the Justice Department. It’s not like these things are new and unprecedented,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told Politico.
President Bill Clinton was sued in the 1990s after Democrats placed First Lady Hillary Clinton in charge of a task force on health care policy, but the Clintons won their case because the role was not a formal position.
Kushner, who is a real estate mogul like Trump, has said he would refuse a salary to get around the anti-nepotism law — but it might not be that simple.
“We’re not talking about Kushner running a side task force here,” said Norm Eisen, former chief ethics lawyer in the Obama White House. “We’re talking about a regular staff job. This falls right in the bull’s eye of the statute. I think it’s illegal.”
Kushner has played an influential role on Trump’s transition team by ousting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie because he was prosecutor when Kushner’s father pleaded guilty in 2005 to corruption-related charges.
The 35-year-old, who is married to Ivanka Trump, is seen as the president-elect’s “eyes and ears” on the transition team.
Sources told the Wall Street Journal that Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and chief strategist, Steve Bannon, are pushing for Kushner to formally join the president’s inner circle.
“Jared recognizes and is inspired by the incredible opportunity to make a positive impact for America,” his wife said.