Justice Dept. says Trump appointing son-in-law Jared Kushner is allowed

DOJ: Appointment does not violate nepotism rules
Justice Dept. says Trump appointing son-in-law Jared Kushner is allowed
Posted at 10:48 AM, Jan 21, 2017

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department concluded Friday that Jared Kushner serving in his father-in-law's administration would not be a violation of federal anti-nepotism laws.

"In choosing his personal staff, the President enjoys an unusual degree of freedom, which Congress found suitable to the demands of his office," wrote Daniel Koffsky, deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel, which serves as interpreter of federal law for the White House. "Any appointment to that staff, however, carries with it a set of legal restrictions, by which Congress has regulated and fenced in the conduct of federal officials."

A person familiar with the issue told CNN that Trump's transition team asked career lawyers with the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel to review the proposed Kushner appointment.

Another source familiar with the matter said Koffsky is a longtime career attorney at OLC. The person familiar with the issue said political appointees of the DOJ, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, did not play any role in the opinion.

A transition source told CNN earlier this month that Kushner, who is married to the President's daughter Ivanka, will be senior adviser to the president.

Kushner, a 36-year-old Harvard-educated businessman, was a key political strategist on Trump's election. But federal anti-nepotism laws brought into question whether he could continue his influence in the President's life post-election.

Trump -- along with many of his Cabinet nominees -- has repeatedly been criticized for conflict of interest. But the Justice Department downplayed those concerns in this specific hire.

"A President wanting a relative's advice on governmental matters therefore has a choice: to seek that advice on an unofficial, ad hoc basis without conferring the status and imposing the responsibilities that accompany formal White House positions; or to appoint his relative to the White House under title 3 and subject him to substantial restrictions against conflicts of interest," Koffsky wrote.

The application of the ruling states that the President of the United States may be an exception to that rule.

"We believe that the President's special hiring authority in 3 U.S.C. § 105(a) permits him to make appointments to the White House Office that the anti-nepotism statute might otherwise forbid," Koffsky wrote.

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