PHOENIX — Much is being made about President-elect Donald Trump selecting his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to serve as his senior White House adviser.
Some have questioned the hire based on a 1967 nepotism law that makes it illegal for government officials to hire relatives. While Kushner’s attorney argued the law does not apply to him, Trump would not be the first to bring a family member into his administration.
Arizona State University historian Brooks Simpson said the most famous example of a president appointing a family member was John F. Kennedy, who handed his brother, Robert, the attorney general position in 1960.
“That was pretty clearly an appointment of somebody who would not have gotten office had it not been for his relationship with the occupant of the Oval Office,” Simpson said.
Kennedy’s pick led Lyndon B. Johnson, who took the White House after Kennedy was assassinated, to sign the aforementioned anti-nepotism bill into law.
Simpson said there are other historical examples — Ulysses S. Grant hired his son to serve as his private secretary, among others — there have been more recent cases as well.
“That issue in fact did come up in the first Clinton administration,” Simpson said. “When President Clinton appointed his wife, the First Lady, to head the health care initiative.”
The question of the anti-nepotism law was raised at that time but judges set it aside. That decision could factor in as Trump’s appointment of Kushner plays out.
Should Kushner or other Trump children be appointed, Simpson said their lack of political experience and potential conflicts of interest would be historically unprecedented.
“[It’s] a question of the vast economic holdings that these individuals have,” he said. “And whether they can place themselves above their self-interest in the same way people have raised that question about the president-elect himself.”
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