Republican officials and members of Donald Trump’s transition team weren’t willing to rule out the possibility of the President-elect giving his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, an official role in the incoming administration.
NBC News reported that Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and newly-named chief strategist, Steve Bannon, approached Kushner about the possibility of serving in the administration “in a role along the lines of a special adviser or special counsel,” citing an unnamed source close to Kushner.
Trump surrogates and allies this week have been hard at work playing up Kushner’s strengths and playing down concerns that him serving in a Trump White House would amount to nepotism.
Asked by MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle to explain Kushner’s qualifications for a government position, Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge fund manager and Trump transition team member, started the day off by comparing Kushner to founding treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton while remaining equivocal on whether Kushner would play any official role in the West Wing.
“I see Jared as like the Alexander Hamilton of the new administration. I’m not saying he’s going in or not going in, but this is a 35-year-old guy,” Scaramucci said Thursday. “Remember how young Alexander Hamilton was when he was advising George Washington.”
“Alexander Hamilton was an academic,” Ruhle pointed out.
“Jared is one of the smartest guys that I’ve met,” Scaramucci replied. “He went to Harvard. He’s a very well studied guy. He’s brought in professors, his former professors, to help us on transitional organization.”
He praised Kushner as “super thoughtful” and “a three-times listener, 0.5% talker.”
“I would trust his judgment. He also has his ego in the right place. He’s not looking to grandstand anywhere,” Scaramucci said. “Mr. Trump, my President-elect, trusts his judgment, and so yeah I would call him an academic. I would call him a guy I would trust.”
Ivanka Trump, incoming first daughter and Kushner’s wife, offered a considerably more reserved prediction of the role that her husband might play in her father’s administration.
“Jared recognizes and is inspired by the incredible opportunity to make a positive impact for America,” she told the Wall Street Journal in a report published Thursday.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said that it would hardly be “unprecedented” for Kushner to hold an official position in his father-in-law’s incoming administration.
“For goodness sake JFK put his brother over at the Justice Department,” Cole told Politico in a Wednesday report. “It’s not like these things are new and unprecedented.”
Yet a federal anti-nepotism law that didn’t exist in JFK’s time forbids Trump from appointing any of his children to a position in any government “agency,” although the Wall Street Journal noted it is unclear whether such restrictions apply to the White House.
Priebus has said that Kushner would “obviously” be a part of the President-elect’s decision-making process.
“In advising the President, I would suspect that me, Steve Bannon, I think Jared Kushner obviously, his son-in-law, is going to be very involved in decision making,” he told NBC’s Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie in an interview Monday.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Thursday that Kushner will “continue to be very important” to the President-elect.
In an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Conway called reports that Kushner has applied for a role “false and inaccurate,” but cited the roles that former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) played when their father George H. W. Bush was president.
“I know the Bush sons were very involved in their father’s administration,” she said. “One became president of the United States and they both became governors.”
She said that Kushner played an “incredibly important” role in Trump’s campaign and his election victory.
“He will continue to be very important to his father-in-law, who just happens to be the next president,” Conway said. “He’s a trusted adviser of his father-in-law. That won’t change.”
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) also refused to rule out the possibility of Kushner advising the President-elect.
“Based on your understanding of nepotism rules, do you believe that Jared Kushner should be able to take a job at the White House?” a reporter asked Ryan.
“I have really no comment about what job he should or should not take but look, he was a very integral part of the campaign,” Ryan said.
He called Kushner “a brilliant young man who Donald Trump trusts” and said that he was leaving it to Trump’s transition team to decide what role Kushner will play.
Pressed again for an answer on whether nepotism rules would block Kushner from holding an official position, Ryan pled ignorance. “I don’t have a deep understanding of how they work,” he said.