WASHINGTON — The usually divided leadership of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee have asked the Office of Government Ethics to review White House counselor Kellyanne Conway pitching Ivanka Trump’s products in a White House interview, with Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) arguing it “was a textbook case of a violation of the law.”
Making the rounds on Sunday show, though, senior policy advisor Stephen Miller said the issue was being blown out of proportion.
President Trump last week attacked Nordstrom for discontinuing his daughter’s clothing and accessories line, with White House press secretary Sean Spicer adding during a daily briefing that “there’s clearly a targeting of her brand.”
“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would tell you,” Conway told Fox News on Thursday morning. “It’s a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully — I’m going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”
That prompted Cummings to ask Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to sign on to a letter to ethics office director Walter Shaub, noting “Conway’s statements appear to violate federal ethics regulations, which prohibit actions that imply a government endorsement of the ‘personal activities’ of another person.”
“In this case, there is an additional challenge, which is that the president, as the ultimate disciplinary authority for White House employees, has an inherent conflict of interest since Conway’s statements relate to his daughter’s private business,” Chaffetz and Cummings added.
“For this reason, we request that you use authority Congress granted to you under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, as amended, to ‘recommend to the head of the officer’s or employee’s agency that appropriate disciplinary action (such as reprimand, suspension, demotion, or dismissal) be brought against the officer or employee.'”
Conway told Fox later Thursday, the day the Oversight letter was sent, that “we’re aware of that letter and we’re reviewing that internally.”
“I’m just really happy that I spent an awful lot of time with the president of the United States this afternoon and that he supports me 100 percent,” she added.
Miller told ABC on Sunday that “the media has taken this to a level it does not merit.”
“You had a case where somebody was treated unfairly. The president stuck up for a member of his family. And the White House counselor made a lighthearted, flippant comment that nobody would interpret as being what has been cast as right now by you and the media and others,” Miller added.
Cummings said later on ABC that Miller’s characterization of the incident was “absolutely incorrect.”
“You cannot go out there as an employee of the government and advertise for Ivanka Trump or anyone else, their products. You can’t do that. And anybody else would be subject to a minimum probably of a reprimand, or they could literally lose their job over this. In any other department,” Cummings said. “So that’s just absolutely not true. It was not flippant. As a matter of fact, she said, she made it clear, I am going to give some free advertisement today for Ivanka Trump. That’s just not right. It was wrong. When there’s a violation of the law, it is up to us in the Oversight Committee to take a look at it. And that’s what we’re doing.”
The next step, he added, will be the Office of Government Ethics taking “a thorough look at this and see how blatant it was.”
“I personally think it was very blatant. I think it was intentional,” Cummings said. “And so now, they then make a recommendation. The problem here… is that the person who will mete out the punishment, if you will, will be the president. And it seems as if this may not be a big deal to him. But it is a big deal to me and it is a big deal to Chairman Chaffetz.”