Monday, March 27, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to head a new White House department on the same day that his administration admitted that Kushner had previously undisclosed contacts with Russian agents and would face Senate questioning.

Kushner, like his father-in-law, is the heir to a real-estate fortune who brings no government experience to his new job, except what he learned about diplomacy through trial and error during the transition. His new job will be to head the White House Office of American Innovation, the creation of which Trump announced today. 

Kushner said yesterday that "the government should be run like a great American company," a view that is controversial at best. Even so, the 36-year-old Kushner has more experience buying businesses than running them. He bought the New York Observer, but has been an absentee owner except to force it to endorse Trump. In 2007, he bought the building at 666 Fifth Avenue for $1.8 billion--the single biggest price ever paid for real estate in the United States. Since Trump's election, that high price forced him to seek "angel investors" in the form of a Chinese consortium who have provided his family with $400 million in "unusually favorable" financing.

The Chinese investment is not the only questionable foreign contact that Kushner has had. The White House admitted today that Kushner would be questioned by Senate investigators over contacts with Russian officials--including some under sanction by the U.S. government--that he had previously kept secret.

Why is this a bad thing?

  • If a job is important enough for the government to do, it should be done by the most qualified person, not the most qualified relative of the president.
  • If business experience is relevant for a government job, presidents should give that job to someone with business experience.
  • It's bad if a president's relative and employee is under suspicion for two different kinds of illicit foreign contacts.