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Democrats challenge Trump son-in-law job

Democrats have called for US President-elect Donald Trump’s naming of his son-in-law as a top adviser to be reviewed over concerns of nepotism and conflict of interest.

A group wants the Justice Department and Office of Government Ethics to scrutinise “legal issues” related to the appointment of Jared Kushner, 36.


His lawyer says the post does not breach anti-nepotism laws.

Mr Kushner is married to Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka.

He will step down as boss of his family’s real estate business and publisher of the New York Observer newspaper in order to comply with ethics laws, lawyer Jamie Gorelick said.

The influential Trump adviser will also divest “substantial assets”, she said.

In his new role as a senior White House adviser, Mr Kushner will initially focus on trade policy and the Middle East, according to officials from the transition team.

Earlier, Mr Trump hailed his son-in-law as a “tremendous asset” and he was proud to give him a “key leadership role” in the administration.

The New York businessman will be inaugurated as the 45th president on 20 January.

In their letter, the Democratic lawmakers, all members of the House Judiciary Committee, argue that a “strong case” can be made that a 1967 federal anti-nepotism statute applies to staff working in the White House, a position rejected by Mr Trump’s team.

They also raise questions about how, even with significant divestment, Mr Kushner could completely avoid conflicts of interest in his White House role.

“Moreover, Mr. Kushner’s White House position may allow him to influence policy that benefits his business interests,” they write.

Mr Kushner was committed to complying with federal ethics laws and had consulted with the Office of Government Ethics about what steps to take, Ms Gorelick said.

She added that he would not be paid for the advisory role.

No post for Ivanka

Ivanka Trump will step down from executive roles at the Trump Organization as well as her own fashion brands.

She will not be taking an official role in her father’s government and instead will focus on raising her children.

Graphic showing who Donald Trump has appointed to be his advisors and members of his cabinet

Mr Kushner played an influential role in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and has been included in key meetings with foreign leaders during the transition period.

On Sunday, he and Mr Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon met with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

The soft-spoken property developer is also said to have played a role in the ousting of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie from the transition team during the campaign.

While US attorney for New Jersey, Mr Christie prosecuted Mr Kushner’s father for tax evasion and witness tampering, and he served a jail sentence.

Several of Mr Trump’s Cabinet picks have business interests that will be scrutinised at confirmation hearings taking place this week.

Grey line

What is the nepotism law?

  • prevents public officials from promoting a relative “to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control”
  • was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967
  • thought to have been prompted by JFK’s appointment of brother Robert to attorney general post in 1960
  • the law would stop a president from giving a Cabinet job to a relative
  • but whether it applies to non-Cabinet posts like advisers is untested

 

Source: BBC

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