President Trump’s official counselor, Kellyanne Conway, was “counseled” after she told TV audiences to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” the White House said Thursday.
KEY ETHICS LAW
Legal experts said Conway had broken a key ethics law banning federal employees from using their public office to endorse products. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that Conway “has been counseled,” but offered no other comment.
Federal law bans employees from using their public office to endorse products. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Thursday that Conway “has been counseled,” but offered no other comment.
FOX & FRIENDS
Conway, speaking to “Fox & Friends” viewers from the White House briefing room, was responding to boycotts of Ivanka Trump merchandise and Nordstrom’s discontinuation of stocking her clothing and shoe lines, which the retailer said was in response to low sales and which the president assailed as unfair.
“I’m going to give it a free commercial here,” Conway said of the president’s daughter’s merchandise brand. “Go buy it today.”
Conway and officials from the Office of Government Ethics did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
CHAIRMAN HOUSE OVERSIGHT
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said Conway’s endorsement was ”clearly over the line” and “unacceptable.”
Earlier in the day, the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), had urged Chaffetz to support a review into what he called “a textbook violation of government ethics laws.”
CONFLICTED OGE RULES
Several attorneys, including former heads of federal agencies, said Conway’s endorsement directly conflicted with OGE rules designed to separate government policy from private business dealings.
DON W. FOX
Don W. Fox, former general counsel and former acting director of OGE, told The Washington Post that “Conway’s encouragement to buy Ivanka’s stuff would seem to be a clear violation of rules prohibiting misuse of public office for anyone’s private gain.
He added: “This is jaw-dropping to me. This rule has been promulgated by the federal Office of Government Ethics as part of the Standards of Conduct for all executive branch employees and it applies to all members of the armed forces as well.”
SHOULD FACE SIGNIFICANT DISCIPLINARY ACTION
Attorneys said a typical executive-branch employee who violated the rule could face significant disciplinary action, including a multi-day suspension and loss of pay.
LEFT TO WHITE HOUSE
Enforcement measures are largely left to the head of the federal agency — in Conway’s case, the White House.
PRESIDENT ON TWITTER
The president took to Twitter on Wednesday to lash out at Nordstrom for dropping Ivanka Trump’s line, saying his daughter had “been treated so unfairly” by the store.
“Clearly, the Trumps feel some of this is related to politics. But whether that’s true or not, these marketing battles need to be fought by Ivanka and her company. They cannot and should not be fought by government employees and the White House,” Schweizer said. “It’s time to move beyond the mind-set and the role of a businessman and assume the mantle of commander of chief.”
Conway’s endorsement of the Ivanka business also highlights an awkward reality for a White House threatening U.S. companies seeking to move jobs or operations overseas. Nearly all of Ivanka-brand merchandise is manufactured in low-cost-labor countries, including China, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
Trump critics quickly seized on the endorsement. Robert Weissman, president of liberal advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement, “Conway’s self-proclaimed advertisement for the Ivanka Trump fashion line demonstrates again what anyone with common sense already knew: President Trump and the Trump administration will use the government apparatus to advance the interests of the family businesses.”
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