Government Ethics Watchdog Urges Trump to Investigate Conway and Consider Disciplining Her

The Office of Government Ethics chief says Trump’s counselor likely broke the law by promoting Ivanka Trump’s merchandise.


The government’s top ethics watchdog sent a letter to the White House on Tuesday stating that Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, almost certainly broke ethics rules by promoting Ivanka Trump’s clothing line and that the administration should investigate her and consider disciplinary action.

Conway appeared on Fox & Friends last week to discuss the decision by the retail chain Nordstrom to drop Ivanka Trump’s clothing line from its stores. Standing in the White House briefing room in front of a presidential seal, Conway bragged that she owns Ivanka Trump clothing and urged viewers to purchase items from the president’s daughter’s line.

In the letter to Stefan Passantino, deputy counsel to the president and the White House’s designated ethics officer, Office of Government Ethics executive director Walter Shaub cited a rule forbidding executive branch employees from endorsing commercial products and pointed to a hypothetical example written into the regulation that’s nearly identical to Conway’s behavior.

“I note the OGE’s regulation on misuse of position offers as an example the hypothetical case of a Presidential appointee appearing in a television commercial to promote a product,” Shaub wrote. “Ms. Conway’s actions track that example almost exactly.”

While Democrats in Washington have criticized the Trump administration for a string of potential ethical lapses, Republicans have generally kept quiet. Conway’s comments, however, led to quick criticism from congressional Republicans, including House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz, who together with the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings, sent a letter to Shaub recommending that he review the incident.

Last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Conway had been “counseled” on the incident, but he did not elaborate on what that meant. Shaub, in his letter, said he has not been notified by the White House of any disciplinary action against Conway.

“Under the present circumstances, there is strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct and that disciplinary action is warranted,” Shaub wrote.

The decision on whether to discipline Conway rests with the White House. Shaub requested notification by February 28 of any disciplinary action. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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