Donald Trump is apparently planning to nominate his son, Donald Jr., as Secretary of the Interior, given that he likes to hunt. Before Trump announces plans to nominate his wife, Melania, as Secretary of State, he may wish to review the federal Anti-Nepotism Statute, 5 U.S.C. § 3110. That law was enacted in response to President Kennedy’s appointment of his brother as Attorney General. It prohibits the President from appointing “to a civilian position . . . in the agency . . . over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative,” including his son or wife.
Mr. Trump reportedly has a team of constitutional scholars examining whether one of his competitors is a “natural born citizen.” Perhaps that same bunch has concluded that the Anti-Nepotism Statute unconstitutionally restricts the President’s power to “nominate and, with Advice and Consent of the Senate, [ ] appoint . . . officers of the United States.” That would be a plausible reading of the Constitution. But this is a question Mr. Trump should confront before he announces further plans to convert the Executive Branch into a family sinecure. Even President Clinton avoided appointing his wife as an officer of the United States when he tasked her with reforming health care.