Trump Names Jared Kushner as Senior Adviser to U.S. President

Kushner, 35, played a key role in Trump's election campaign. His appointment could face legal challenges due to federal anti-nepotism laws.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law of of President-elect Donald Trump, walks out of Trump Tower in New York, November 14, 2016.
Jared Kushner, son-in-law of of President-elect Donald Trump, walks out of Trump Tower in New York, November 14, 2016. Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-Elect Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner will serve as a senior adviser to the president, Trump said in a statement Monday. 

"He will be an invaluable member of my team as I set and execute an ambitious agenda, putting the American people first," Trump said. 

According to the statement, Kushner will work with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Kushner has chosen to forego his salary while serving in the administration, the statement said.

Kushner, 35, played a key role in Trump's election campaign. His appointment could face legal challenges, since the federal anti-nepotism laws in the U.S. specifically mention "son-in-law" within the category of relatives whom a public official may not appoint, employ, promote or advance.

President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, standing next to daughter Ivanka Trump, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown on November 9, 2016.
MARK WILSON/AFP

Lawyers involved with the transition told NBC that these problems would be overcome. One path discussed by the team stipulates that the White House isn't a government agency, which means it is not bound to the anti-nepotism regulations. However, the Washington Post quoted two former White House ethics lawyers who served the George W. Bush and Obama administrations respectively, and both stated that they advised against appointing relatives to positions in the West Wing – which is where Kushner is now headed.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Kushner continued to advance his business dealings in the weeks since his father-in-law's election victory, including real-estate ventures in Manhattan involving business partners from China.

The same report quoted Jamie Gorelick, a lawyer who served in the Clinton White House and is currently advising Kushner, who said her client is "committed to complying with federal ethics laws, and we have been consulting with the Office of Government Ethics regarding the steps he would take.” Gorelick is quoted as saying that Kushner would resign from his role as chief executive of his family's companies and divest from "substantial assets."

Ivanka Trump, who like her husband has been a trusted adviser to the president-elect, will not take on a role in her father's White House but will focus instead on settling her family in Washington. 

Late on Monday, a group of six Democrats on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee said they had written to the Justice Department and U.S. Office of Government Ethics asking them to review concerns about nepotism and conflicts of interest arising from Kushner's appointment. 

Kushner's exact role and fields of responsibility in the Trump administration are not yet clear. In past interviews and statements, Trump has discussed the idea of putting his son-in-law, who is an Orthodox Jew, in charge of the Middle East peace process. Kushner helped Trump prepare his speech before the conference of the pro-Israeli AIPAC lobby last March.

During the Republican primaries, he also tried to arrange Trump's visit to Israel, which was canceled shortly after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu distanced himself from Trump's calls to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Haaretz reported last month that the Kushner family's foundation donated tens of thousands of dollars to organizations and institutions located in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. One of those institutions was a Yeshiva in the settlement of Beit El, to which the Kushners donated $20,000 in 2013.

David Friedman, Trump's nominee for the post of ambassador to Israel, is also a strong supporter of the Beit El Yeshiva who has raised and donated thousands of dollars for it over the years.

Divestments 

In order to comply with federal ethics laws and after consulting the Office of Government Ethics, Kushner will take a number of steps to divest substantial assets, Gorelick said. 

Kushner will resign from his positions as chief executive of the Kushner Companies and as publisher of the New York Observer newspaper and divest from any interests in the New York Observer, Thrive Capital, 666 Fifth Avenue and any foreign investments. 

In addition, Kushner will recuse himself from participating in matters that could have a direct effect on his remaining financial interests. 

Those interests include real estate in the New York area, Ivanka Trump's interest in the new Trump hotel in Washington and the Ivanka Trump Brand fashion business, the officials said. 

Ivanka Trump will not participate in the management or operations of the Trump Organization or the Ivanka Trump brand or fashion business. 

She will divest significant assets including all common stock and resign from all officer and director positions she holds in the Trump Organization. 

Reuters contributed to this report