This week, President Trump and his administration went head-to-head with Nordstrom after the company made the controversial decision to drop Ivanka Trump’s clothing line from their store.
It didn’t take long for Trump to respond to the company’s announcement on Twitter, writing: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person—always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”
“This is a direct attack on his policies and her name,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the next day.
On Thursday, Kellyanne Conway added to the drama by appearing on Fox & Friends. During an interview, she commented on the incident, saying, “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff is what I would tell you—I hate shopping—I’m going to go get some myself, today.”
Trump’s critics quickly expressed outrage at Conway’s claiming, arguing that it violated the laws against pushing products. Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center referenced endorsement law. While Trump may be exempt from the law, Conway is not.
Federal law prohibits a government employee from using “his public office for his own private gain or for that of persons or organizations with which is he associated personally. An employee’s position or title should not be used to coerce; to endorse any product, service or enterprise; or to give the appearance of governmental sanction.”
Richard Painter, a top ethics lawyer in the Bush administration commented on the statement, saying it would have never been allowed during that presidency.
“It is a violation of federal ethics regulations prohibiting use of public office for private gain for any government employee in an official speech, an official capacity TV interview or any similar communication to promote the products or services of a particular private business belonging to the employee’s own family, the President’s family, a friend, a campaign contributor or anything else,” he noted. “That was strictly forbidden in the Bush administration because it is illegal.”
Now, things are quickly escalating—and they don’t look good Conway. Representative Jason Chaffetz, lead chair of the House Oversight Committee, and Elijah Cummings, the Democratic ranking member, wrote a letter to the head of the federal Office of Government Ethics demanding a remedy and saying that Conway’s remarks “raised extremely serious concerns.”