The Trump children have been working in the White House for their father, which has caused questions to the legality of the matter. Although it is nepotism, it is not illegal in this case. So what is the catch? They are not being paid. Even so, nepotism is nothing new to the White House.
Presidential nepotism can be traced back to as early as 1797 when President John Adams appointed three relatives to government positions during his presidency. President Andrew Jackson hired his nephew Jack Donelson as general land office clerk. The next president, Martin Van Buren, appointed his son Martin Jr. as a general land clerk and his other son Abraham as Second Auditor at the U.S. Treasury Department. Then they were transferred to the White House and were utilized as private secretaries.
The list goes on to include President John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Zachary Taylor, Rutherford B. Hayes, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, James Buchanan and Ulysses S. Grant, who is considered as the worst of all in the list. Grant appointed three of his brothers-in-law to federal government positions, one of which used the position to make money by selling insider information.
One of the most popular cases before Trump’s presidency is back when President John F. Kennedy was in office. Kennedy appointed his brother Robert Kennedy to U.S. Attorney General even though he was considered under-qualified since he was 35 years old and had no courtroom experience.
A few years after JFK’s presidency, President Lyndon B. Johnson approved the Postal Revenue and Federal Salary Act of 1967, which put an end to nepotism legally. The law states that “A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official.”
Donald Trump Jr. has been making headlines recently for his involvement with a Russian government attorney that he met with in June 2016 to get harmful intelligence on Hilary Clinton. It was revealed that he went to the meeting with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort, but received no such intelligence on Trump’s soon to be opponent in the race.
Then, the Russian attorney who was emailing Trump Jr., Natalia Veselnitskaya, had an exclusive interview with NBC News on July 11. In the interview, she said the meeting was to discuss sanctions relating to one of her clients and she did not want to speak about the presidential campaign. She also said that she has “never worked for the government in the first place.”
On the same day as the interview, Trump Jr. tweeted pictures of the emails and admitted to attending the meeting in order to get information that had the potential to harm Clinton’s campaign.
Here's my statement and the full email chain pic.twitter.com/x050r5n5LQ
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
Here is page 4 (which did not post due to space constraints). pic.twitter.com/z1Xi4nr2gq
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
Having Trump Jr., Kushner and Ivanka Trump working for the president is considered nepotism, but it is still legal because they are not being paid for their work. Both the meeting with the Russian lawyer and Trump’s nepotism is legal, but is not considered ethical.
A former special counsel and ethics adviser to Barack Obama between 2009 and 2011, Norman Eisen, accused Trump of acting “like something out of a tin-pot oligarchy” for allowing Ivanka to sit in on his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Eisen further commented in Forbes and said, “This is not the way we behave in the world’s leading constitutional democracy.” This was before Trump officially appointed his children and son-in-law to White House positions.
Ivanka has gotten more criticism for her involvement in her father’s politics when she sat in his place next to world leaders like Prime Minister Theresa May, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. President Trump claimed that Ivanka was only filling his seat while he was in a meeting and reports said she did not contribute to the discussion being held.
As president, Trump can give security clearance to whomever he wants. Steven Aftergood, director of the project on government secrecy at the Federation of the American Scientist, confirmed this in a New York Times article back in November 2016. Aftergood said, “It’s part of [Trump’s] commander-in-chief role. He has a broad, essentially unlimited, access in this area.”
Trump’s business has always been tied to family, so it is no surprise that his politics are as well. Should their lack of paycheck legally allow them to work in the White House? If the Trump children do not want the money, what do they want out of the politics? What they have done in politics – whether its meeting with a Russian lawyer to get information on an opponent or sit in their father’s place at a leader’s meeting – is inappropriate. They seem to be working for their father as if the presidency is his business, not as if they are serving the American people.