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Trump names son-in-law as his senior adviser

Jared Kushner has been named senior adviser to Donald Trump, formalising the role of the president-elect’s son-in-law as one of the most powerful people in the incoming White House.

The 35-year-old property developer, who is married to Mr Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka, will be taking the role without salary. Ms Trump will not be taking an immediate role in the administration.

Transition officials said Mr Kushner would work closely alongside Mr Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus and his chief strategist Steve Bannon.

The role does not require Senate confirmation but Mr Kushner will divest his major real estate and media holdings. He will resign as chief executive of Kushner Companies, his family’s real estate company, and sell the New York Observer — the pink New York newspaper that he has owned since 2008. He will also divest his stake in 666 Fifth Avenue, the New York skyscraper owned by Kushner Companies.

In a statement, Mr Trump praised Mr Kushner as “an invaluable member” of his team. “Jared has been a tremendous asset and trusted adviser throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration.”

Since Mr Trump’s election, both his daughter and Mr Kushner have taken hands-on roles with the president-elect’s transition work, facilitating meetings and phone calls between Mr Trump and foreign dignitaries including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

© AFP

The unprecedented involvement of Mr Trump’s family members has thrown up an unusual range of questions about conflicts of interest and the potential for constitutional breaches.

It emerged in recent days that Mr Kushner had held talks as recently as a week after election with the chairman of Anbang, one of China’s most politically connected tycoons, about a potential real estate deal.

Ethics watchdogs have raised questions about how Mr Trump will put his own business interests in a so-called blind trust if his adult children are the ones managing the assets — one of several issues he is expected to be questioned on at a long-awaited press conference scheduled for Wednesday.

There are particular questions concerning the family’s new Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House in Washington, DC. Mr Trump leases the site from the federal government, raising the question of how he will be able to be both the building’s landlord and tenant. There are also concerns that foreign governments and dignitaries will begin booking the hotel and its event space as a way to curry favour with the new administration.

Friends describe Ms Trump and Mr Kushner as charming, disciplined and ruthlessly ambitious — particularly Mr Kushner. Though previously a Democrat, both he and his wife threw themselves into Mr Trump’s campaign, travelling with him and, in Ms Trump’s case, speaking on his behalf at many events.

“They both have built extremely successful businesses and they have both done it in a very fast manner, at a young age,” says Reed Cordish, a Baltimore real estate scion who was introduced to his wife by Ms Trump.

“Both developed a lot of experience in how to manage effectively and successfully a large operation. They both are incredibly thoughtful people and thoughtful leaders. When you interact with them — and I’ve also watched them and how they manage their business — they go to great lengths to make sure they are incredibly informed on every topic they are dealing with.”

He said he did not expect Ms Trump to enter into politics just because her family was now in proximity to the White House. “I think she loves working on her businesses and the other different passions and involvements that she has. I don’t think that politics was or is an ambition for her and I think she is going to stay focused on business,” Mr Cordish said.

He characterised Ms Trump’s work on her father’s campaign as filial duty. “If they are in a position to help a friend, or certainly to help a family member, they sort of just do it,” he said.

While the couple has a public persona — with Mr Kushner usually standing on the sidelines, listening attentively, and Ms Trump “sucking up all the oxygen in the room” as one observer put it — at home they have managed to maintain a semblance of a home life, largely due to their Jewish Orthodox faith, the religion Ms Trump converted to when they married.

“If you’re going through an Orthodox conversion and you’re sticking with the community, it’s not like you’re simply slapping on the decal on the process,” said one person in the couple’s Orthodox community who notes the couple is seen faithfully observing the Sabbath and religious holidays.

Via FT