Jared Kushner’s Appointment Worries Ethics Lawyers
President-elect Donald J. Trump announced last Monday that he would appoint his son-in-law, real estate investor Jared Kushner, as a senior White House adviser. And now, Mr. Kushner’s lawyers said he would sell most of his assets to avoid many conflicts of interest. But, since he plans to sell to his brother or even a family trust which his mother controls, ethics lawyers doubt how meaningful the divestiture really is.
One of these lawyers is Jamie S. Gorelick. Shee has the dual role of advising Kushner with the ethical issues they have to navigate, while also advising Mr. Trump on aspects that potentially affect his bottom line. Reportedly, Mr. Kushner will divest his interest in 35 investments.
This includes the family flagship office tower on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. Gorelick also said that Kushner plans to restructure his role in the remaining holdings. This supposedly ensures that he will not manage them.
Gorelick added that her client he will sell his common stocks, resign in his role as chief executive of the family business, Kushner Companies and will also sell The New York Observer. He will also withhold from decisions that affect his other holdings, and those of his wife, Ivanka Trump. “He will be treated as any other person entering public service,” said Ms. Gorelick. She is a partner at WilmerHale, as well as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, the New York Times reported.
Matthew T. Sanderson, a lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale and also general counsel to Senator Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, has his doubts. Mr. Sanderson said that Kushner’s plan falls short of standards. Mr. Kushner intends to sell the assets to his brother, Joshua, a venture capitalist, and also to a trust controlled by his mother, Seryl. Additionally, his mother and siblings are the beneficiaries of the said trust, as well. “It sounds like a shell game to me,” Mr. Sanderson said.
And, even with the divestiture, Mr. Kushner will still maintain links to his family’s businesses. However, those close to Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump have repeatedly underscored the loss of income that the two will sacrifice. Ms. Gorelick said that Ms. Trump will remove herself from her management roles at the Trump Organization. She will do the same to her apparel and licensing companies.
Ms. Trump will then draw income in fixed payments from the Trump Organization. This means her salary will not change even with new federal laws or decisions that her father’s administration will implement. Ms. Gorelick offered that Mr. Kushner’s legal team consulted with the Office of Government Ethics. He has agreed to certain requests. For instance, he and his team will craft a plan that satisfies all legal requirements for him to serve.
Lawyers have concluded that at least one obstacle, a federal anti-nepotism law, was not applicable. The law prohibits federal officials from hiring relatives for agencies they lead. However, the White House is not an agency. “I’m not saying that there isn’t an argument on the other side,” Ms. Gorelick said. “I just think we have the better argument.”
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