The US President-elect is facing mounting questions over the role of his family in a Trump administration, amid fears of nepotism and an unprecedented conflict of interest.

The Trump transition team met with former rival and Texas Senator Ted Cruz on Wednesday for "very good and productive conversations" in Trump Tower. It comes after the president-elect named his children Eric, Donald Junior, Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, as members of his team to help him prepare for the January inauguration.

Now President-elect Donald Trump with his family, from left, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Trump, Melania Trump, Tiffany Trump and Ivanka Trump. Photo / AP
Now President-elect Donald Trump with his family, from left, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Trump, Melania Trump, Tiffany Trump and Ivanka Trump. Photo / AP

The President-elect has previously said his children will run his privately-held Trump Organisation when he takes office, raising critical questions about the separation between his business and political affairs.

Chatham House's assistant head of the Americas program Dr Jacob Parakilas said the situation at the top of US politics is a grey area that is unprecedented.


"There is no mechanism anyone can use to control sources of advice," he told about the regulations surrounding the separation of business, family and political interests. "That is the prerogative of the President."

"He can't technically hire his children. He couldn't appoint Ivanka Secretary of Defence but that's not to say he can't ask for advice. He can read them into any security classification. They won't have a formal role but I think it would be widely understood they would wield significant informal power in a political sense."

He said the situation is potentially worrying because it leaves the door open to the fact that the Trump children could be working to advise their father on areas in which they have no experience except their business interests.

"First of all none of his kids have any formal qualifications in things like national security, economics, defence," he said. "Like him they've been involved in real estate, marketing, jewellery, lifestyle brands ... He may be taking their advice on counter-terrorism."

"This is incredibly irregular. It suggests a break from the norms of decades, if not centuries."


There is no law against Donald Trump appointing his family members as part of his transition team or him having businesses while in office. The problem comes when the children are officially employed to work for him - and how close they are while running his companies.

US nepotism law shows public officials cannot "appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement" their relatives into an agency which they are serving in or control. They also can't be paid from Treasury money if that is the case.

But there are ways around it, including employing his children as "advisers" without an official salary. They could also be employed by another branch of government that Trump could inadvertently influence, or hired under "unforeseen events or circumstances" The Washington Post reports.

It wouldn't be the first time family members have been employed in government. Bill Clinton provided an office for Hillary Clinton as head of a health task force in 1993. The decision was criticised but later upheld by a court.

John F Kennedy also appointed his brother Robert as US Attorney General. That decision was also confirmed by the Senate, but later led to an anti-nepotism law being passed against similar decisions in future.

The complicating factor for Trump is whether he would be willing to give up the business interests that are so intrinsically tied to his personal and political brand.

Typically presidents have put assets in a blind trust run by an external trustee while they're in office. Trump has previously said he would "absolutely cut ties" with his business to prevent a conflict of interest.

However legal experts have called his plan to turn them over to his children as not so much "blind" as "one eyed". Back in June Think Progress described the plan to separate the two as "essentially worthless" because it does not ensure the separation of interests a "blind trust" is meant to provide.

CNN commentator Ryan Lizza tweeted: "Banning lobbyists while failing to deal with massive conflict posed by Trump Org. is like calling an exterminator while the house is actually on fire."

The mounting questions come during a week of fervent speculation over the "finalists" in a Trump cabinet. Earlier the President-elect denied he sought security clearance for his son-in-law, Kushner.

The real-estate mogul has been a key member of Trump's campaign team and is thought to be the architect of his digital strategy and major speeches. He's also thought to be behind the ousting of Chris Christie in favour of Mike Pence as leader of the transition team.

What role the Trump children will play in the White House remains unclear although Trump's media manager Hope Hicks, has made it clear the team would "love" Kushner to "come to Washington."

"People are hopeful that will continue in the administration," she said.

Dr Parakilas said the political community is in "wait and see" mode when it comes to President-elect Trump's appointments, but it's conventions of good governance rather than black and white law which govern the decisions Trump will soon have to make.

"You don't have to stretch your imagination too far to find he and his children making decisions about governance based on their perception of what the national interest is," he said.

"We live in interesting times."