Trump’s Son-in-Law Kushner Can Take White House Job, DOJ Says

  • New opinion says appointment doesn’t violate anti-nepotism law
  • Decision should clear way for Kushner’s role in administration

The Justice Department said President Donald Trump isn’t prohibited by a federal anti-nepotism statute from appointing his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to a job as a senior White House adviser.

Daniel L. Koffsky, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote in a memorandum that the White House is exempted from a 1967 law that prevents public officials from appointing relatives to federal agencies they can control, and therefore the law “would not prohibit the contemplated appointment.”

The 14-page opinion appears to clear the way for Trump’s contentious decision to elevate Kushner to a role that will have him working with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon. In a statement this month Trump called Kushner, 35, a “tremendous asset and trusted adviser.”

Kushner will take the role without pay and, according to his lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, has agreed to divest from Thrive Capital, an investment firm. He’ll also divest his ownership interest in the New York Observer, one of only a handful of major newspapers to endorse Trump’s candidacy, and will resign as chief executive officer of Kushner Cos., his family’s real estate company, to comply with government ethics standards.

Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, recently bought a home in Northwest Washington and are moving there from New York City. Kushner played a key role in Trump’s presidential campaign.

Leaning on Family

Other presidents have relied on family members for informal counsel, even on key issues. President John Kennedy picked his brother Robert as attorney general, while President Bill Clinton put Hillary Clinton largely in charge of a doomed drive to overhaul the health care system.

In his opinion, Koffsky, said the White House is not a federal “agency” and that the president’s authority “permits him to make appointments to the White House Office that the anti-nepotism status might otherwise forbid.”

“In choosing his personal staff, the President enjoys an unusual degree of freedom, which Congress found suitable to the demands of his office,” Koffsky wrote.

Koffsky is a career employee of the Justice Department, not a political appointee. In 2013, under Attorney General Eric Holder, he won an award that recognizes “exceptional contributions” to the government. He also, in 2015, was presented with an award for excellence in government service from the DC Bar.

— With assistance by Jennifer Jacobs

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