Jared, Ivanka and the Problem With Normalizing Nepotism
WASHINGTON, May 29, 2017—Americans were initially shocked when reports emerged that Donald Trump was seeking top-secret security clearances for his children shortly after the 2016 election. The claim was strongly denied by members of his transition team. Trump himself denied it on Twitter.
I am not trying to get “top level security clearance” for my children. This was a typically false news story.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2016
However, four months into Trump’s presidency his daughter, Ivanka, and her husband Jared both have security clearances and top-level White House jobs. Neither have meaningfully divested from their businesses and continue to financially benefit from them.
In the months since Trump was elected, Ivanka has issued a “style alert” promoting a $10,000 bangle that she wore during a 60 minutes interview, Kellyanne Conway has urged people to “buy Ivanka’s stuff” from the White House press briefing room and Donald Trump has publicly attacked an American company that employs 72,500 Americans for not continuing to carry Ivanka’s clothing line. (The entire coal industry employs 76,500 people).
Also during this time, Jared Kushner’s sister, Nicole, was caught promising investor visas to wealthy Chinese businesspeople in exchange for a $500,000 investment in Kushner properties.
Despite promising to resign from their personal and family companies, the couple has yet to follow through. Ivanka and her husband will still benefit from their real estate and other investments, worth about $740 million, according to ethics filings. Jared and Ivanka’s multi-million dollar art collection was not included in their financial disclosures.
Among other assets they did disclose, Ivanka is retaining a $5 million to $25 million stake in Trump’s controversial D.C. hotel, and earned between $1 million and $5 million from this property between January 2016 and March 2017, according to financial disclosures.
The abuse of power in naming family members—with huge unresolved conflicts of interest who refuse to divest from their businesses—would not be as outrageous if either Jared or Ivanka had the required training or experience in national security, government or policy fields. It is clear, however, that they do not.
That Ivanka or Jared would to a better job advising Trump on complex, nuanced issues than individuals who have spent their entire lives training and working in the field is not defensible. That they have refused to meaningfully divest themselves from their businesses and actively continue to promote them is unacceptable.
On the one hand, Trump is asking Americans to believe that Jared Kushner is smart enough to negotiate Middle East peace, but not smart enough to realize the seriousness of repeatedly omitting contact with Russian officials on security clearance forms. The Trump administration is asking you to believe that Kushner is competent to manage criminal justice reform and the opioid crisis, but not competent enough to understand how problematic it is to ask to set up a secret line of communication with the Kremlin.
Trump is asking that Americans trust that Jared and Ivanka will be an objective advisers on relations with Mexico and immigration, while Jared’s sister sells investor visas to Chinese businesspeople in exchange for a large investment in a Kushner family property.
The Trump administration presents Ivanka as a modern-day feminist while she continues to profit from the exploitation of women in foreign countries through her clothing line. The White House touts a family leave plan as a justification for her high-profile advisor job, while her father’s budget proposes massive cuts to education, children and women’s health, and a host of other social programs designed to support the poorest and most vulnerable families.
Normalizing nepotism not only allows the Trump and Kushner families to enrich themselves through their government positions, it compromises government at its highest levels and prevents it from working for the benefit of the American people.
Featured image: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Flickr Creative Commons