Trump’s son-in-law pick spurs ‘anti-nepotism’ debate

Jared Kushner (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2017
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Trump’s son-in-law pick spurs ‘anti-nepotism’ debate

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK: The legal community is offering differing views about whether President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to hire his son-in-law as a senior adviser violates a 50-year-old federal law.
Trump’s transition team argued there is no legal problem with having Jared Kushner serve in the White House because an anti-nepotism law enacted in 1967 does not apply to the president’s staff.
Trump is relying on an interpretation of the law itself, backed by a court opinion from 1993, as well as a separate provision of federal law from 1978 that allows the president to appoint White House staff “without regard to any other provision of law” dealing with employment.
But several law professors and ethicists interviewed Monday by The Associated Press were not so certain.
A “murky legal landscape” was the description given by Norman Eisen, who served as President Barack Obama’s government ethics lawyer.
Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said her analysis of the anti-nepotism statute signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson is that it does apply to the White House.
“Congress didn’t in this law carve out an exception for the White House. It’s quite broad in scope. It applies to the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judicial branch, the D.C. government,” Clark said.
Gerard Magliocca, a professor at the Indiana University McKinney Law School, said he doubted the law could be applied to presidential staff members without running into constitutional problems. “It’s hard to see why Congress has the authority to limit presidential staff members,” Magliocca said.
Kushner lawyer Jamie Gorelick, a former high-ranking Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, cited a 1993 opinion in a case involving Hillary Clinton’s work on her husband’s health care law.
The anti-nepotism law was not directly at issue in the case, but Judge Laurence Silberman, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, wrote then that the law probably does not cover White House staff.
Another Reagan appointee, Judge James Buckley, agreed with the outcome in that case, but did not join Silberman’s opinion partly because he considered Silberman’s argument about the anti-nepotism law “a weak one.”
Ivanka to step down from businesses
Ivanka Trump, America’s incoming first daughter and Kushner’s wife, will step down from the Trump Organization and her own label, US media reported Tuesday.
The reports came just hours after Trump announced that her husband would take on a top-level job as special adviser to the incoming Republican commander-in-chief.
They suggest an effort by Ivanka, vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization who set up her own company that sells clothes, shoes and jewelry, to comply with ethics laws.
The couple are destined to move from New York to Washington, reportedly snapping up a new home in an upscale suburb, but US media do not expect Ivanka to take on a formal job at the moment.
Her husband’s appointment comes despite a federal nepotism law, passed after then-President John F. Kennedy appointed his brother as attorney general, that prohibits any president from hiring a relative.
Gorelick told the Washington Post said she was confident that the law does not apply to Kushner’s appointment.
In the past, Trump aides have drawn a distinction between Cabinet-level jobs and positions within the White House, suggesting that the latter carry more leeway for the president to appoint whomever he wants.
Kushner’s lawyer has said he will resign as CEO of Kushner Companies, his property development firm, and “divest substantial assets in accordance with federal guidelines.”
The Post reported that while his wife plans to resign from the Trump Organization and step away from her company, she will focus — at least in the short term — on settling her family into Washington.
She came under fire shortly after the election, when her company used her appearance in a family television interview to market a $10,000 gold bracelet that she wore during the segment.
The couple’s moves to break their business ties will compound pressure on the president-elect to do the same.
He is set to give his first news conference since the election on Wednesday, at which he is expected to lay out his own plans for the family business during his tenure at the White House.


4 dead in Waffle House shooting in southern US state; suspect sought

Updated 23 April 2018
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4 dead in Waffle House shooting in southern US state; suspect sought

NASHVILLE, US: A nearly naked gunman wearing only a green jacket and brandishing an assault rifle stormed a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville early Sunday, shooting four people to death before a customer rushed him and wrestled the weapon away.
Authorities were searching for the 29-year-old suspect, Travis Reinking, who they said drove to the busy restaurant and killed two people in the parking lot before entering and continuing to fire. When his AR-15 rifle either jammed or the clip was empty, the customer disarmed him in a scuffle.
Four people were also wounded before the gunman fled, throwing off his jacket.
Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said there was no clear motive, though Reinking may have “mental issues.” He may still be armed, Anderson told a mid-afternoon news conference, because he was known to have owned a handgun that authorities have not recovered.
US Secret Service agents arrested Reinking last July for being in a restricted area near the White House, officials said. Special Agent Todd Hudson said Reinking was detained after refusing to leave the restricted area, saying he wanted to meet President Donald Trump.
State police in Illinois, where Reinking lived until last fall, subsequently revoked his state firearms card at the request of the FBI and four guns were then taken from him, including the AR-15 used in Sunday’s shooting as well as a handgun, authorities said.
Sheriff Robert Huston in Tazewell County, Illinois, said deputies allowed Reinking’s father to take possession of the guns on the promise that he would “keep the weapons secure and out of the possession of Travis.” Huston added that, based on past deputies’ encounters with Reinking, “there’s certainly evidence that there’s some sort of mental health issues involved.”
While Huston said it was unclear how Reinking reclaimed the guns, Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron said that his father “has now acknowledged giving them back to his son.”
Phone calls to a number listed for the father, Jeffrey Reinking, went unanswered.
Meanwhile, authorities hailed the customer who intervened to stop a further bloodbath, 29-year-old James Shaw, Jr., as a hero — though the father of a 4-year-old girl demurred and said he was just trying to survive.
One hand bandaged, Shaw told reporters he first thought the gunshots fired around 3:25 a.m. were plates falling from a dishwashing station.
When he realized what was happening, he took cover behind a door as shots shattered windows. The gun either jammed or needed a new clip, and that’s when Shaw said he pounced after making up his mind that “he was going to have to work to kill me.”
Shaw said he was not a religious man, but “for a tenth of a second, something was with me to run through that door and get the gun from him.”
They cursed at each other as they scuffled, Shaw said, and he was able to grab the gun and toss it over a counter. The gunman then ran away into the dark of the working- and middle-class Antioch neighborhood of southeast Nashville.
Authorities said he shed his jacket nearby and police found two AR-15 magazines loaded with bullets in the pockets. He was seen walking, naked, on a road, officials said, but later was spotted wearing pants but no shirt after apparently returning to his apartment.
Another witness, Chuck Cordero, told The Tennessean newspaper he had stopped to get a cup of coffee and was outside the Waffle House when the chaos unfolded.
“He did not say anything,” Cordero said of the gunman, who he described as “all business.”
Cordero said Shaw saved lives. “There was plenty more people in that restaurant,” he said.
The dead were identified as 29-year-old restaurant worker Taurean C. Sanderlin, and restaurant patrons Joe R. Perez, 20, Akilah Dasilva, 23, and Deebony Groves, 21. A police statement said Sanderlin and Perez were killed outside the restaurant, Groves was fatally shot inside, and Dasilva was critically wounded inside and later died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Aaron, the police spokesman, said two of the wounded were being treated for gunshot wounds at the medical center, where spokeswoman Jennifer Wetzel said one was in critical condition and the other was in critical but stable condition.
TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center spokeswoman Katie Radel in Nashville said two people were treated for minor injuries and released.
Aaron said Reinking had been employed in construction and lived near the restaurant, and police used yellow crime scene tape to block public access to an apartment complex about a half-mile from the Waffle House. Reinking is originally from Morton, Illinois.
“This is a very sad day for the Waffle House family,” the company said in a statement on Twitter. “We ask for everyone to keep the victims and their families in their thoughts and prayers.”
Nashville Mayor David Briley described the shooting as “a tragic day” for the city.
“My heart goes out to the families & friends of every person who was killed or wounded,” Briley said in an emailed statement. “I know all of their lives will be forever changed by this devastating crime.”
US Rep. Jim Cooper, whose district includes Nashville, said in an emailed statement that the shooting shows the need for tighter restrictions on “widespread civilian access to military-grade assault weapons.”
Nashville Chief Anderson said there was no Tennessee law that would have barred Reinking from having guns, though weapons could be taken away if the suspect had serious mental health issues. That would require taking him to court and having his rights taken away because of illness, a sometimes lengthy and difficult process, Anderson said.
Police reports filed in Illinois showed past run-ins with authorities there.
In May 2016, Tazewell County deputies were called to a CVS parking lot where Reinking told officers that Taylor Swift was stalking him and hacking his phone, and that his family was also involved, according to a report released Sunday. Reinking agreed to go to a local hospital for an evaluation after repeatedly resisting the request, the report said.
Another report from the sheriff’s office said Reinking barged into a community pool in Tremont, Illinois, last June and jumped into the water wearing a pink woman’s coat over his underwear. Investigators believed he had an AR-15 rifle in his car trunk, but it was never displayed. No charges were filed.