Right Turn | Opinion
October 4, 2017 at 2:00 PM
The continued presence of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in the West Wing constitutes both a legal liability and a political embarrassment for President Trump. The couple have not a single identifiable accomplishment in office between the two of them. Ivanka Trump, however, has been on defense, whining about unfair expectations and trying to wiggle out of responsibility for failing to influence her father. Kushner wound up at odds with the State Department and was there to cheer on disastrous personnel decisions (e.g. hiring Paul Manafort during the campaign, firing former FBI director James B. Comey).
Trump would be wise to send them back home to New York to reside in the Trump empire.
Kushner, you will recall, has a host of potential legal problems stemming from participation in a meeting with Russian officials at Trump Tower during the campaign; a meeting with the head of a sanctioned Russian bank during the transition; encouragement for the president to fire Comey (an action that may be considered obstruction of justice) and failure to disclose all his foreign contacts on his security clearance forms.
President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump re-routed their personal email accounts to computers run by the Trump Organization as public scrutiny intensified over their use of private emails to conduct White House business, internet registration records show.
The move, made just days after Kushner’s use of a personal email account first became public, came shortly after special counsel Robert Mueller asked the White House to turn over records related to his investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump associates. It also more closely intertwines President Trump’s administration with his constellation of private businesses.
No one said this crowd was subtle. Nevertheless, Mueller can subpoena the emails and obtain information about rerouting the accounts as part of his ongoing investigation. Now imagine Republicans’ reaction if Hillary Clinton had been caught moving her private email account that had been used improperly for government business over to the Clinton Foundation. I think the chant would be: “Lock her up!”
But wait — there’s more. Politico reports:
The Justice Department has released a series of recently overruled legal memos concluding that presidents cannot appoint their relatives to the White House staff or presidential commissions, even to unpaid posts.
In January, a career Justice Department official essentially declared the earlier opinions erroneous or obsolete, clearing the way for President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to take a senior adviser position in the White House. First daughter Ivanka Trump later took a similar official but unpaid slot under the same legal rationale.
The newly disclosed opinions, issued to the administrations of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and obtained by POLITICO Monday through a Freedom of Information Act request, detail how Justice Department lawyers concluded for decades that such appointments of family members were illegal under an anti-nepotism law passed in 1967.
Hmm, maybe that attorney needs to be interviewed to determine whether he was pressured into offering up an opinion that allowed Trump to do what his predecessors did not.
In any event, as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington noted, we see that once again “the Trump administration fails to meet the ethical and transparency bar of the Nixon administration.” Earlier this year, CREW prophetically warned:
Whether or not this legal analysis holds up, President Trump’s hiring of his son-in-law and daughter undoubtedly violates the intended purpose of the anti-nepotism statute. Originally passed after President Kennedy appointed his brother as attorney general, the statute manifestly aims to prevent the president from appointing family members to government positions. Allowing nepotism — especially at the highest level of government — undermines the integrity of the Administration’s policy making. President Trump’s appointments of his daughter and son-in-law make clear that he is not interested in selecting the most qualified candidates, and also may violate President Trump’s own Ethics Pledge. Neither Mr. Kushner nor Ms. Trump has any significant experience in policymaking. … These appointments also are likely to inhibit the ability of other government employees to give candid opinions about policy proposals and personnel matters for fear of alienating the president’s family members.
Moreover, serving as a presidential advisor to a close family member raises a larger and more serious question about whether Ms. Trump’s and Mr. Kushner’s primary allegiance is to the Constitution or to President Trump personally and his brand. In a monarchy, these interests may be one and the same, but not necessarily in a democracy.
The good news for the administration is that the situation can be remedied — by sending Ivanka Trump and Kushner home, where she need not fret about failing to live up to expectations and he can attend to his financial troubles and marshal his legal defenses.