Department of Justice Clears Kushner to Serve as Senior Adviser to President Trump

Trump has tapped his son-in-law as a senior adviser, saying that he would be involved in advancing the 'ultimate deal' – peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by son-in-law Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence and Staff Secretary Rob Porter, sign his first executive orders at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 20, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

A legal opinion published on Saturday by the U.S. Department of Justice says that Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law, can legally be appointed as a senior adviser to the president, despite earlier claims that his appointment could be in violation of U.S. anti-nepotism laws. The basis of the legal opinion is that the anti-nepotism laws, which strictly prohibit governments officials from promoting or appointing their sons-in-law, only applies to federal "agencies" – a definition that doesn't include the White House.

The White House Office, says the DOJ opinion, is "not an 'Executive Agency'" of the government, according to previous rulings by courts in the District of Columbia. The legal opinion also bases its conclusion on the fact that U.S. laws describe the president's hiring authorities as follows: "without regard to any other provision of law regulating the employment or compensation of persons in the Government service." The DOJ explains that this language means that "because of the president's special hiring authority for the White House Office, [the anti-nepotism law] does not forbid the proposed appointment." 

Kushner is not mentioned by name in the legal opinion, and even the term "son-in-law" appears only twice within its 14 pages, but the bottom line for him is that his appointment as President Trump's senior adviser looks secure. Trump in recent days heaped praise on Kushner, husband of his daughter Ivanka and an Orthodox Jew, stating in public that Ivanka "married well" and that if Kushner won't be able to get a Middle East peace deal, "nobody can."  Kushner's exact role in the Trump administration hasn't yet been defined, but Trump has stated a number of times that his son-in-law would be involved in trying to broker an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, or in the new president's own words, "the ultimate deal." 

Kushner, 35, is a New Jersey native who was born into a successful real-estate family and married Ivanka Trump in 2009. He was one of the closest people to Trump during the election campaign, and was also deeply involved in preparing his father-in-law for his speech at the AIPAC policy conference in March 2016. The Trump transition team announced last week that Avi Berkowitz, a friend of Kushner's who assisted the campaign with social media during the elections, will serve as Kushner's assistant in the White House.