The Trump Conflict of Interest Files: Jared Kushner Named Senior Advisor
On January 9, 2017, Trump announced that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, will take on the role of senior advisor to the president. Kushner will not take a salary and will reportedly sell many of his assets.
The Trump transition team claims that the appointment will not run afoul of anti-nepotism laws, particularly 5 U.S. Code § 3110, known as the 1967 anti-nepotism law.
(Click to enlarge)
The 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.”
The law specifically lists “son-in-law” under the definition of “relative.”
However, the Trump transition team and their attorneys are pointing to dicta in the 1993 D.C. Circuit Court decision AAPS v. (Hillary Rodham) Clinton dealing with President Clinton appointing his wife as the chairman of the President’s Task Force on National Health Care Reform.
In AAPS the Court held that, for the purposes of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the presidential spouse was an officer or employee. However, in dicta (“a judge’s incidental expression of opinion, not essential to the decision and not establishing precedent”) Judge Silberman, the author of the opinion, wrote, “We doubt Congress intended to include the White House under the anti-nepotism statute.”
The Trump team is pointing to this language in their argument in favor of appointing Kushner. However, in a recent interview, Washington University government ethics expert Kathleen Clark told the Washington Post that this was a weak argument.
Many are characterizing this move on the part of the Trump transition as a test of nepotism laws and a test of how far voters and lawmakers are willing to allow Trump to continue to flout well-established laws and norms.