Nepotism is the New Normal in Trump's White House

  • Ben Hayward
  • Mar 31, 2017 12:36PM

On Wednesday, March 29th, Ivanka Trump made the announcement that she will become a formal employee of the federal government. Though she already had an office in the West Wing, the first daughter now joins her husband, Jared Kushner, as an unpaid employee in Washington. It goes without saying that the move is unprecedented; no first-child (or first-son-in-law for that matter) has ever served in this capacity.

Ivanka will take on the formal title “assistant to the President,” a term almost as nebulous at the mantle of “senior adviser” that applies to her husband.

In a statement issued by the White House, Ivanka recognized the irregularity of her appointment, “While there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president [in the West Wing], I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees.”

But does that promise really mean anything?

The Trump-Kushners’ refusal to accept pay allows them to skirt the 1967 nepotism law which prevents government employees, from the President right on down, from hiring or promoting relatives. Their non-salaries also permit the President to lean back on legislation which permits him to appoint employees in the White House office without regard to any other provision of law regulating the employment or compensation of persons in the government service."

While her appointment may be above board, Ivanka still owns her fashion and jewelry companies, has a nominal role in the Trump Organization, and sundry investment and real estate initiatives with her husband. Whether she will divest herself of any of these remains to be seen, but her retention of any of them presents massive opportunities for conflict of interest and self-promotion.

Her promise to be good may just be lip service – as I can’t imagine someone takes an unpaid position at the White House out of the goodness of their heart.

Many D.C. folk also remain skeptical. Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and king of understatement, told VICE News, “I would say that the White House staff, up to and including the president, to date have not given us a lot of confidence.”

Her appointment comes at a time when her husband and “senior adviser” Jared Kushner is under investigation for collusion with the Russian government, in addition to wielding a lot of power at the White House lately.

It’s probably worth taking some time to discuss this guy.