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Politics & Government

Reports: Trump Son-In-Law Jared Kushner To Be Named Senior Adviser

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President-elect Donald Trump announced today plans to name his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a senior adviser in the White House. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, were key players during the presidential campaign, and he's one of the president-elect's most trusted confidants. He's also CEO of his own family's multibillion-dollar real estate business. And by formally joining the Trump administration, Kushner brings yet another set of potential conflicts of interest to the White House.

NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now. And Scott, we know Trump was already planning to hold a news conference later this week to discuss plans to distance himself from his own family's Trump Organization. So what sort of wrinkle could this Kushner appointment add?

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Audie, this could be a very big wrinkle. We've talked about how the Trump Organization's sprawling business interests, including in foreign countries, could complicate the incoming president's decision-making. Now, the Kushner companies which Jared Kushner took over after his father went to prison for tax evasion, has its own spider web of financial threats.

Just to give you one example, The New York Times ran a lengthy story over the weekend about how Kushner has been negotiating with China's Anbang company to help bankroll the renovation of his firm's signature Manhattan skyscraper. Now, Anbang has close ties to the Chinese government. Its chairman is married to the granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, and it carries some red flags for the U.S. government. Just to cite one - after Anbang bought the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, President Obama stopped staying there during his official visits.

Now, Jared Kushner thinks he can navigate these potential conflicts. He's hired Jamie Gorelick, the former deputy attorney general from the Clinton administration, to help him. And Gorelick tells NPR that Kushner plans to play no active role in his company's operations. He's going to sell off some of his ownership in that company, and he's planning to steer clear of White House decisions that involve those assets he doesn't sell.

JAMIE GORELICK: He is being treated and will be treated as any other individual who goes into public service. We, on his behalf, have consulted with the Office of Government Ethics, and we believe we have a very good path for bringing him into compliance with those rules.

CORNISH: There's also a rule against government officials hiring family members, and he's the president-elect's son-in-law. Can you talk about how those rules would or would not apply here?

HORSLEY: Yeah, the anti-nepotism statute says you can't put family members to work in a government agency, but there appears to be a loophole for the West Wing because the White House is not considered a government agency. At least that's the argument that Kushner and his team will be making.

Now, it's not a slam dunk, but that argument was tested a little bit back in the 1990s when former President Clinton tapped his wife, Hillary, to lead the health care task force. That was challenged in court at the time, and at least one federal judge agreed the West Wing is exempt from the anti-nepotism statute. Now, I might add, the choice of Jared Kushner to be a senior adviser is not subject to Senate confirmation.

CORNISH: Before I let you go, help us understand why Trump wants Kushner in the White House with him.

HORSLEY: Well, he is, as you said in the intro, a very trusted confidant to the president-elect. It's kind of funny because on the surface, these two could hardly be more different. Kushner, who turns 36 tomorrow, generally avoids the limelight, although his face has been on a lot of magazine covers since the election. He comes from a family of Democrats. He's an Orthodox Jew. In fact, at one point, Donald Trump suggested Kushner might play a role in Middle East peace negotiations.

For all their differences, though, Kushner is intensely loyal to his father-in-law. He stood by Trump during some of the very darkest moments on the campaign trail, and both of these men are fiercely devoted to their families.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thanks so much.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.