US President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, already a White House senior adviser, will take on the additional task of overseeing an effort to overhaul the federal government, the White House said on Monday.
Kushner, who is married to Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, will lead a White House Office of American Innovation to leverage business ideas and potentially privatize some government functions as the White House pushes to shrink government, cut federal employees and eliminate regulations.
"This office will bring together the best ideas from government, the private sector, and other thought leaders to ensure that America is ready to solve today's most intractable problems," Trump said in a memorandum creating the office that includes about a dozen White House officials.
Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to "drain the swamp," has enacted a hiring freeze for most civilian federal jobs and proposed massive cuts in US domestic agencies that could shrink the size of government by thousands of workers
The Republican president has also proposed sweeping cuts in government regulations and plans to sign an order on Tuesday rolling back some energy regulations.
"We have a lot more coming," he said on Monday at a ceremony signing bills to repeal four regulations, vowing to eliminate every "job-killing regulation that we can find."
A number of recent presidents including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama had mixed success with their own initiatives to reinvent or streamline government using suggestions from the private sector.
Kushner has been a regular presence at his father-in-law's side and was earlier cleared by the Justice Department to serve as a White House senior adviser even as Democrats raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest.
He has been given a wide range of domestic and foreign policy responsibilities, including working on a Middle East peace deal. He will continue to serve in the other roles even as he takes up the new duties, the White House said.
Last week, Ivanka Trump received her own office in the White House along with access to classified information and a government-issued phone. Aides had said earlier she would not take on a role in her father's White House.
The Washington Post quoted aides as saying she would collaborate with Kushner's innovation office but would not have an official role.
Kushner to testify on Trump's Russian ties
Kushner is also expected to testify in front of a US Senate Intelligence Committee investigating suspected Russian interference in the election after a Russian bank under Western economic sanctions disclosed on Monday that its executives had met with him in December.
Kushner, who agreed to testify, previously acknowledged meeting the Russian ambassador to Washington last December and only on Monday did it emerge that executives of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) had talks with Kushner during a bank roadshow last year.
The bank said in an emailed statement that as part of its preparing a new strategy, its executives met representatives of financial institutes in Europe, Asia and America.
It said roadshow meetings took place "with a number of representatives of the largest banks and business establishments of the United States, including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies." VEB declined to say where the meetings took place or the dates.
There was no immediate comment from Kushner.
Allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russian actors were behind hacking of senior Democratic Party operatives and spreading disinformation linger over Trump's young presidency. Democrats charge the Russians wanted to tilt the election toward the Republican, a claim dismissed by Trump. Russia denies the allegations.
But there has been no doubt that the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, developed contacts among the Trump team. Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign on Feb. 13 after revelations that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with Kislyak and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.
US officials said that after meeting with Russian Kislyak at Trump Tower last December, a meeting also attended by Flynn, Kushner met later in December with Sergei Gorkov, chairman of Vnesheconombank.
White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed the meetings, saying nothing of consequence was discussed.
According to two congressional staffers, some Senate investigators want to question Kushner and Flynn about whether they discussed with Gorkov or other Russian officials or financial executives the possibility of investing in 666 Fifth Avenue in New York or other Kushner Co or Trump properties if the new administration lifted the sanctions.
"Throughout the campaign and the transition, Jared served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials ... and so, given this role, he volunteered to speak with Chairman Burr's committee," White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters at his daily briefing on Monday.