Donald Trump

Ethics Watchdog Calls on White House to Investigate Conway's Comments

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said last week that Conway has been "counseled" on the issue

The government's ethics watchdog said there is "strong reason to believe" that Kellyanne Conway violated federal ethics rules when she told TV viewers to "go buy" Ivanka Trump products, and is recommending that the White House consider disciplining President Donald Trump's counselor.

In a letter made public Tuesday, Walter Schaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, wrote that Conway's comments clearly violate ethics rules that bar federal employees from using their public office to endorse a product.

“Under the present circumstances, there is strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct Act and that disciplinary action is warranted,” Schaub wrote to White House Deputy Counsel Stefan Passantino in a Feb. 13 letter.

Conway urged viewers to "go buy Ivanka's stuff" during a Thursday morning interview with "Fox & Friends" and later said she was giving the brand a "free commercial." Conway conducted the interview from inside the White House briefing room. 

"As Ms. Conway made these statements, she appeared on screen in a tight frame between the official seal of the White House and the American flag," Schaub wrote to White House lawyer Stefan C. Passantino. "These facts, if true, would establish a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position."

Schaub notes that OGE's regulations offers as an example of prohibited misuse of public office, a hypothetical case of a Presidential appointee appearing in a television commercial to promote a product. "Ms. Conway's actions track that example almost exactly," Schaub wrote.

According to the letter, lawyers for the White House and OGE spoke on Feb. 9 — the day of Conway's interview — and that the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Oversight Committee asked OGE to follow up.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said last week that Conway has been "counseled," but the OGE said it has yet to receive any guidance on what if anything happened as a corrective action. The OGE is requesting that White House lawyers notify them in writing by Feb. 28 about the findings of their investigation and what disciplinary actions, if any, were taken.

Conway's comments on the Fox News network followed the president's public attack on Nordstrom in response to the department store saying it planned to stop selling Ivanka Trump products, citing declining sales. The president alleged that Nordstrom was treating his daughter "unfairly," renewing concerns that he is using his position as president to affect his family's business interests.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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