WASHINGTON – Kellyanne Conway, the adviser to President Donald Trump who made a commercial pitch for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line from the White House, won’t face punishment for the ethics breach.
In a letter to the Office of Government Ethics, deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino said that Conway “acted inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again.
“Ms. Conway made the statement in question in a light, offhand manner while attempting to stand up for a person she believed had been unfairly treated,” Passantino wrote.
During an interview on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” last month from the White House briefing room, Conway was asked about the controversy over Nordstrom’s decision to drop Ivanka Trump’s clothing and accessories line. The department store cited slumping sales.
Conway suggested that viewers should “go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”
“I’m going to give a free commercial here,” Conway said. “Go buy it today, everybody.”
Democrats and ethics watchdogs immediately criticized her for using the platform to hawk a commercial product.
In the letter, Passantino said he met with Conway and let her know about the prohibition on federal employees using their official position for commercial endorsement.
Although the ethics office serves as a watchdog, the administration is responsible for disciplining its employees.
The decision to not discipline Conway is a “very bad sign,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee. Cummings and other congressional Democrats have been pressing for more investigations and disclosure of possible ethics conflicts presented by Trump’s business holdings.
“Other federal employees would likely be suspended for engaging in this conduct, and White House officials should not be held to a different standard,” he said in a statement.
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