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Trump son-in-law tipped as senior White House adviser

Jared Kushner2.jpg
Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, widely credited as the brains who got the Republican elected, will be named a senior White House adviser despite a host of legal and ethical concerns, US media reported Monday.

[NEW YORK] Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, widely credited as the brains who got the Republican elected, will be named a senior White House adviser despite a host of legal and ethical concerns, US media reported Monday.

If confirmed, the baby-faced real estate developer and magazine publisher married to Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka and who turns 36 on Tuesday, will become the youngest senior adviser in the incoming administration.

The Trump team did not respond to a request to comment but his lawyer said that Mr Kushner would resign as CEO at the New York-based Kushner Companies and "divest substantial assets in accordance with federal guidelines."

"Mr Kushner is committed to complying with federal ethics laws and we have been consulting with the Office of Government Ethics regarding the steps he would take," said Jamie Gorelick, a partner at firm WilmerHale and a former deputy attorney general under president Bill Clinton, in a statement.

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Mr Kushner, his wife and three children have also reportedly settled on a home in the same upscale Washington neighborhood where outgoing President Barack Obama will live as his youngest daughter finishes high school.

The expected appointment was reported two days before Mr Trump is set to give his first news conference since the November election, called to detail plans for his own company and potential conflicts of interest while in the White House.

Fiercely loyal and discreet to a fault, Mr Kushner has been a permanent fixture by his 70-year-old father-in-law's side, proving himself one of Mr Trump's most trusted advisers despite his lack of political experience.

Such is his influence that transition officials told the Obama White House that foreign policy matters that need to be brought to the president-elect's attention should be relayed through Mr Kushner, the New York Times reported.

The president-elect told the New York Times in November that his son-in-law, an Orthodox Jew, was so talented that he could help "do peace in the Middle East" and would play a central role in dealings with Israel.

"Every president I've ever known has one or two people he intuitively and structurally trusts," former secretary of state Henry Kissinger told Forbes late last year. "I think Jared might be that person," he added.

The real estate developer was credited with masterminding a data-driven campaign that focused on message tailoring and what Forbes called sentiment manipulation and machine learning in the quest for electoral victory.

But nepotism laws raise such serious conflict of interest questions that Mr Kushner has already hired a legal team to help him navigate.

The New York Times this weekend spotlighted what it called the "ethical thicket" that Mr Kushner would have to navigate while advising his father-in-law on policy that could affect his business holdings.

Under his leadership, real estate group Kushner Companies has completed more than US$14 billion in transactions and US$7 billion in acquisitions since 2007, according to its website.

With his brother he also co-founded an investment company, is an active investor in technology companies and sits on the boards of several start-ups, as well as the left-leaning Democrat mayor of New York's broadband taskforce.

A federal nepotism law, passed after then-president John F. Kennedy appointed his brother as attorney general, prohibits any president from hiring a relative.

But Trump advisers have in the past indicated there would be more leeway for a White House rather than cabinet-level job.

In stark contrast to his father-in-law, Mr Kushner shuns the limelight and rarely speaks to the media. But in other ways his life story is similar to Trump's.

Like Mr Trump, he took over the family real estate business and shifted its focus to Manhattan. Forbes estimates that Mr Kushner, his brother and parents have a fortune worth at least US$1.8 billion.

A child of privilege, he grew up in a family of Democrat donors in New Jersey, before studying at Harvard and New York University.

He was still a student when fellow Trump aide Chris Christie, then a US attorney, jailed his father for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign contributions.

Mr Kushner picked up the pieces and took up the reins of the family business. Ten years ago he also added The New York Observer lifestyle newspaper to his portfolio and revived its fortunes by taking it online.

So fierce is his loyalty that Mr Kushner has repeatedly defended Mr Trump against accusations of anti-Semitism, publishing an op-ed last July that referenced his Holocaust survivor family.