Donald Trump’s White House has been admonished by the US Office of Government Ethics for failing to punish one of his closest aides for an alleged “misuse of position”.
The President’s team received a scolding for not disciplining Kellyanne Conway after she used a TV interview to promote Ivanka Trump’s beauty products last month.
The agency’s director, Walter Shaub, told the White House in a letter on Thursday their refusal to condemn Conway risked “undermining the ethics program”.
It originally recommended disciplinary action because laws prohibit the President’s staff from endorsing certain products.
Conway, who serves as counselor to Trump, urged millions of viewers in a TV interview from the White House briefing room to go and buy Ivanka Trump’s beauty products.
She said when asked whether the President’s daughter was being treated unfairly:
It's a wonderful line. I own some of it. I'm going to just, I'm going to give a free commercial here: Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online Kellyanne Conway on Fox & Friends
Barack Obama’s ex-ethics czar Norman Eisen said afterwards that the intervention was “unprecedented, it’s unethical and it may very well be unlawful”.
The White House defended her comments, saying they were made “in a light, off-hand manner while attempting to stand up for a person she believed had been unfairly treated”.
A lawyer for the administration even said later that many ethics agency rules do not apply to the President’s staff.
Shaub hit back at that “extraordinary” assertion in another letter also published yesterday.
He wrote: “The assertion is incorrect, and the letter cites no legal basis for it.
“Presidential administrations have not considered it appropriate to challenge the applicability of ethics rules to the entire executive branch.
“It is critical to the public’s faith in the integrity of government that White House employees be held to the same standard of ethical accountability as other executive branch employees.”
Ivanka Trump is the US President’s second child. She runs a well-known fashion company but has suffered some public setbacks after her father’s election win.
In February this year, two department stores dropped her brand citing “poor performance”.