Democrats on the House Oversight Committee released a letter Tuesday from the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) regarding presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway’s public comments endorsing Ivanka Trump’s fashion line.
“There is strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct and that disciplinary action is warranted,” says the letter, written by OGE Director Walter Shaub.
It says the White House should “consider taking disciplinary action against her.”
On February 9, after Nordstrom announced it would stop selling Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories, Conway said on Fox News, “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would tell you….this is just a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully - I’m gonna just going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today everybody. You can find it online.”
Government ethics rules --which are not laws -- prohibit federal employees from “misusing their official positions,” the letter says. “Executive branch officials should use the authority entrusted to them for the benefit of the American people and not for private profit.”
Later that day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters, “Kellyanne has been counseled, and that’s all we’re going to go with.” OGE has seen no evidence Conway was disciplined by the White House.
The letter says Conway was “unquestionably appearing in her official capacity” in front of the official White House seal and therefore believes that her statements were a “clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position.” It compared her behavior to a presidential appointee appearing in a commercial.
The letter from the director of the Office of Government Ethics is addressed to Stefan Passantino, Deputy Counsel to the President and Designated Agency Ethics Official.
The Office of Government Ethics requested it be notified of any disciplinary action taken by the White House against Conway by February 28th.
However, neither OGE nor Congress can force the White House to take disciplinary action against Conway. All they can do is make a recommendation. After that, it’s in the hands of Conway’s superiors.