Why Kushner as White House Adviser is Causing Furious Debate

Why Kushner as White House Adviser is Causing Furious Debate

Story written at Times of India

As birthday presents from father-in-law to son-in-law go, it will be hard to top this one. US President-elect Donald Trump on Monday announced that Jared Kushner, who is married to his daughter Ivanka Trump, would take on the disarming title of Senior Advisor to him.

The appointment, requiring no senate confirmation and coming on the eve of Kushner's 36th birthday on Tuesday, set off a furious debate in political and executive circles over whether Trump was pushing the boundaries of nepotism, considering Kushner has no political or executive experience.

Trump was his usual dismissive self about the disquiet over an appointment that is widely expected to make Kushner the second most powerful man in the administration. Between hectoring auto companies and twitting Meryl Streep, Trump extolled his son-in-law, saying he has been ''a tremendous asset and trusted advisor throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration.''

Pundits and presidential historians weighed in, as did media folks ranging from talking heads to fashion journals. Appointing a family member to an administration post, including White House adviser, is not unprecedented; John F. Kennedy nominated his brother Robert Kennedy to be the Attorney General and Bill Clinton picked his wife and First Lady Hillary Clinton to fix the health care system during his first term. But typically, they had significant political and/or executive experience.

Some ethics mavens reckon if Jared Kushner conforms to all the financial and fiduciary rules requiring him to dissociate, divest, and recuse himself from various holdings and associations that could bring him into conflict with his duties, he could hold office as White House adviser. Others differ, arguing that no matter what he does, the appointment will be challenged under the federal anti-nepotism law aimed at preventing officials from appointing relatives to government positions.

But the law is unclear - it prohibits elected officials from appointing relatives to Cabinet positions, and it may not apply to a job as White House adviser. Democrats have said they will challenge the appointment.

In any event, pols and mandarins across the world are brushing up on the Kushner files amid indications even before the appointment that he could be the go-to person not just for Trump but also to reach Trump. He and his wife Ivanka sat in on Trump's first meeting with a major foreign leader (Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe), and he was sought out by Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson more recently.

''It's hard to overstate and summarize Jared's role in the campaign,'' the Silicon Valley billionaire and Trump supporter Peter Thiel told Forbes in November, ''If Trump was the CEO, Jared was effectively the chief operating officer.''

Born on January 10, 1981, to a Jewish family in Livingston, New Jersey, Jared Kushner is the eldest of four siblings, educated at Harvard and New York University. He is said to have begun dabbling in real estate even while in college and is reported to be worth $ 200 million.
In one interview Ivanka was quoted as saying he and her father bonded over her and real estate.
Kushner too comes from a wealthy real estate family; his father Charles Kushner was a controversial figure who went to prison for making illegal campaign contributions - to Democrats; Jared too was a liberal Democrat before he took to his father-in-law -- and tax evasion.

Posted by: The Trust Advisor


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