Immediately after President Trump appointed son-in-law Jared Kushner as a Senior White House Advisor, the fur flew on Capitol Hill. On the most basic level, D.C. analysts couldn’t figure out what the politically inexperienced Kushner could bring to President Trump’s table. And on the legal front, critics argued that Kushner’s presence on President Trump’s staff violated the 1967 federal anti-nepotism statute that Congress passed shortly after President Kennedy tapped his brother Robert as his Attorney General. The statute ruled that nepotism potentially undermines presidential policymaking.
Kushner’s elevation to a key, influential White House position also violated President Trump’s Executive Order 13770 that he issued just days after his inauguration, in which the president wrote: “I agree that any hiring or other employment decisions I make will be based on the candidate’s qualifications, competence and experience.”
In an effort to slow the mounting fury over Kushner, and eventually over Kushner’s wife – the President’s daughter Ivanka, who also became a Senior White House Advisor – the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel concluded that, based on another statute, when the president hires White House employees, he’s exempt from the anti-nepotism law.
Regardless of legal arguments, President Trump’s addition of son-in-law Jared and daughter Ivanka to key White House insider positions raised questions about his judgment and demonstrated a remarkable political naiveté, especially for a man who had just shocked the nation with his 2016 win. Nothing positive could have come from President Trump’s decision to hire Jared and Ivanka. And nothing productive ever did evolve from Kushner and Ivanka.
Predictably, the love birds have been a thorn in President Trump’s side since Day 1. They have done everything possible to undermine the president’s strategy to tighten immigration, the platform that delivered the 2016 election to Trump. Kushner has persistently lobbied for more immigration, mostly in the form of employment-based visas, that would displace U.S. tech workers. In secret meetings with immigration advocates like the Chamber of Commerce, Kushner pressed for higher legal immigrant levels. More employment-authorized immigrants directly conflicts with President Trump’s “hire American” Executive Order. More than 40 million unemployed and desperate Americans haven’t dissuaded either Kushner, or the lockstep aides and assistants under his direction, from pushing their expansionist views.
Ivanka is all-in on her husband’s indefensible more-workers-are-needed philosophy. At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show, Ivanka, the keynote speaker, said in reference to F-1 student visa holders, “We need to reach over the sidelines, draw them into our workforce.” Such a policy, if enacted, would greatly hamper the already formidable challenge that tens of thousands of U.S. tech graduates and prospective employment-seekers must overcome to get good white-collar jobs.
But credible rumors continue to swirl that President Trump has had his fill of Jared. In 2018, President Trump reportedly told then-Chief-of-Staff John Kelly and others among his close friends that “Jared hasn’t been so good for me” and that “he wished both Jared and Ivanka would return to New York.” Jokingly – or perhaps not – President Trump said that he wished Ivanka had married New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, but instead got Kushner. Some in the media have derided Kushner for subverting President Trump and have correctly noted that Jared finds his father-in-law’s supporters contemptible.
When the time comes for President Trump to dismiss those who have fallen out of his favor, he acts swiftly. Through May 20, 2020, about 415 among the president’s staff have been fired or have resigned under pressure.
Kushner could soon be gone too. Jared’s continued high-visibility presence, often in critical immigration negotiations, detracts from President Trump’s agenda, and greatly annoys the president’s base which he can ill-afford to lose.