When J.F.K. nominated his brother for Attorney General in 1960, the question of nepotism immediately arose. Kennedy shrugged off criticism, joking that he thought it would benefit his brother Bob to get some legal experience before going out to practice law.
R.F.K ultimately turned out to be an excellent and courageous Attorney General, leading the country’s civil rights and anti-corruption efforts. But that was beside the point for most people, Democrats and Republicans alike.
The Nation blasted the appointment as “the greatest example of nepotism this land has ever seen,” while Newsweek called it a “travesty of justice.” Irresponsible, said a New York Times editorial: “It is simply not good enough to name a bright young political manager, no matter how bright or how young or how personally loyal, to a major post in government.”
So in 1967, 5 U.S. Code § 3110, the federal anti-nepotism law, was passed. It was referred to by most people as “the Bobby Kennedy law”, and it was sponsored by a Democrat, Rep. Neal Smith (D-Iowa).
The law says, “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.”. The law defines exactly who is a relative and specifies son-in-law in this definition.
Today, Donald J. Trump appointed his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as Senior White House Advisor, a clear violation of the law. But laws do not apply to Donald J. Trump. Congress will not only be complicit, but will facilitate his actions in defiance of the law. There is nobody that will say no to the man-baby. He will do what he wants.
Here’s how the Republicans will justify their actions in this case. The anti-nepotism law does say, “An individual appointed, employed, promoted, or advanced in violation of this section is not entitled to pay, and money may not be paid from the Treasury as pay to an individual so appointed, employed, promoted, or advanced.” They will say that as long as Kushner forgoes pay, everything is cool.
But it’s not cool. They are ignoring the part that says “in violation of this section”. It’s against the law for Kushner to take the job, and, if that part of law is violated, it is further against the law to be paid.
Doesn’t matter. It will be done Trump’s way. Resistance is futile. Kellyanne Conway, Mitch McConnell, and others will shortly be explaining on all media how the push-back (if anyone actually dares to push back) is just sour grapes from sore losers.
They don’t need no stinkin’ badges.