Monday, January 9, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He announced the appointment of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as Senior Advisor to the President, in apparent violation of federal anti-nepotism laws.

Kushner, a 35-year-old heir to a real estate fortune who purchased the New York Observer in 2008, is already known for his influence over Trump. One of Trump's first moves after being elected was to explore the possibility of getting Kushner a top security clearance, and Kushner succeeded in purging the Trump team of members affiliated with Chris Christie, against whom Kushner has a personal vendetta. (Christie, as a US Attorney, successfully prosecuted Kushner's father for tax evasion and witness tampering.) 

Appointing Kushner to this position, however, would be a violation of federal law on its face, which bars officials (including the President) from hiring close relatives (including in-laws). The move also raises concerns that Kushner would be in a position to benefit financially from his direct access as a senior advisor to the workings of the Trump administration. Kushner has said he will partially divest from his family business holdings--although by selling them to his brother or a non-blind trust administered by his mother. 

These ethics concerns are particularly pointed in light of Kushner's willingness to trade on his father-in-law's political rise during the transition.

Why is that such a bad thing?

  • Presidents should not simply ignore laws they find inconvenient.
  • Presidents should probably pick senior advisors who are in a position to offer advice.
  • It's bad if presidents seem to be putting their family's interests above those of the nation.