Did Kellyanne Conway's Ivanka comments break the rules? The House ethics boss says yes.

Did Kellyanne Conway's Ivanka comments break the rules? The House ethics boss says yes.
Source: AP
Source: AP

The head of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said top White House adviser Kellyanne Conway crossed a line when she made a pitch for Ivanka Trump's clothing line during a TV appearance Thursday.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, scolded Conway in a tweet accompanying a letter to the federal Office on Government Ethics co-signed by the House committee's ranking Democrat, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings.

"What she did was wrong, wrong, wrong. Here is our bipartisan letter to the White House and OGE," Chaffetz said, adding the hashtag #DontEverDoThis.

Conway stuck up for her boss' daughter on television Thursday morning after President Donald Trump himself railed against Nordstrom on Twitter for phasing out the Ivanka Trump line due to what it said were flagging sales.

Her comments sparked a wave of accusations that she had run afoul of federal ethics laws prohibiting government officials from using their posts to endorse products or promote the financial gain of friends and relatives.

"In this case, Conway's statements from the White House using her official title could appear to constitute an explicit endorsement and advertisement for Ivanka Trump's personal business activities," Chaffetz and Cummings wrote in asking OGE Director Walter Shaub Jr. to review the matter.

The duo noted 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."

Therefore, they wrote, Shaub should use his federal authority to recommend appropriate disciplinary action if he deems it necessary.

Chaffetz earlier told reporters Conway erred when she said she was giving Ivanka Trump "a free commercial" on Fox & Friends following Nordstrom's announcement that it was dropping the womenswear line.

He said Conway's remarks were "clearly over the line" and "wholly unacceptable."

In a series of Thursday tweets, the Office of Government Ethics reported a flood of phone calls "about recent events" and politely informed followers that the office doesn't launch investigations, but rather works to prevent ethics violations.

The OGE website also appeared to be down Thursday afternoon for reasons that are unclear.

During Thursday's media briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Conway had been "counseled" about her remarks but declined to further elaborate on the situation.

An unidentified White House spokeswoman later told the Associated Press the president hadn't seen Conway's appearance on Fox, but "understands she was merely sticking up for a wonderful woman who she has great respect for and felt was treated unfairly."

Before the bipartisan letter he wrote with Chaffetz, Cummings had joined those formally asking the Utah congressman and other federal authorities to investigate Conway's conduct: 

Others who demanded action on Conway's "free commercial" included Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and the nonprofit watchdog groups Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and Common Cause.

Ivanka Trump, who opted not to take a formal position with her father's administration — unlike her husband, Jared Kushner — remained silent on Twitter about the dust-up. 

Feb. 9, 2017, 6:04 p.m.: This story has been updated.