Trump's son-in-law eyeing White House job

Mr Kushner, the husband of Mr Trump's eldest daughter Ivanka, has reportedly been testing the legal waters regarding the possibility of joining the new administration.
Mr Kushner, the husband of Mr Trump's eldest daughter Ivanka, has reportedly been testing the legal waters regarding the possibility of joining the new administration.

WASHINGTON • President-elect Donald Trump could try to invoke the example of Mrs Hillary Clinton - whom he just defeated in a bruising election - to appoint his son-in-law to a West Wing post.

Mr Trump's desire to add Mr Jared Kushner, 35, to his administration gives weight to speculation that he intends to run the White House the way he runs his businesses - by relying heavily on his children.

The New York Times reported that Mr Kushner - husband of Mr Trump's eldest daughter Ivanka - has spoken to a lawyer about the possibility of joining the new administration.

If true, it is a move that could violate federal anti-nepotism laws and risk legal challenges and political backlash.

Ethics lawyers said that such an arrangement would violate a federal statute designed to prevent family ties from influencing the functioning of the government.

Under a 1967 law enacted after former president John F. Kennedy installed his brother Robert as attorney-general, no public official can hire a family member - including one related by marriage - to an agency or office over which he has authority.

A separate statute also makes it a crime, punishable by a fine and up to two years in prison, for government employees to accept voluntary services that are not authorised by law, except in emergency situations.

Mr Norman Eisen, who was President Barack Obama's ethics counsel, said that if Mr Trump were to attempt to skirt it by having Mr Kushner advise him in a volunteer capacity, he "would be treading upon very serious statutory and constitutional grounds".

But Mr Trump could invoke the example of Mrs Clinton, who was once appointed by her husband Bill, a former president, to lead his healthcare task force. But the Clintons paid a steep price for it, ultimately losing both the Senate and the House in 1994, as Republicans assailed what they portrayed as a White House run amok.

"You can try to wiggle your way around the law, but you've got to realise the political reality that this is prohibited under the statute," Mr Richard Painter, an ethics counsel to former president George W. Bush, was quoted as saying by NYTimes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'Trump's son-in-law eyeing White House job'. Print Edition | Subscribe