WASHINGTON - Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, was “counseled” by White House staff after she encouraged people to buy products from Ivanka Trump's clothing line during an American television interview.
Conway's comments Thursday aroused immediate ethics concerns by members of Congress and government watchdog groups who say Conway's endorsement clearly violated ethics rules.
Asked about the incident later in the day by White House reporters, spokesman Sean Spicer said: "She's been counseled, and that's all we're going to go with. she has been counseled, and ... that's it."
Conway was commenting on news reports that a large U.S. clothing-store group, Norstrom Inc., was no longer carrying products marketed by a company controlled by the president's daughter, Ivanka. During a live news interview ("Fox & Friends"), Conway declared Ivanka Trump's company was "wonderful," and said she wanted to give it a "free commercial" while speaking from the White House briefing room.
"I own some of it [clothing]. I fully, I'm gonna just going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online," Conway said.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to the Office of Government Ethics to complain about Conway's comments, and asked for an investigation. The progressive group said the senior Trump adviser's remarks violated federal law.
"As the law makes clear, public officials should not use their offices for either their own private gain or the private gain of others. Government resources should be used for public purposes, not to promote any private party's products," the CREW letter said.
The ethics law in question applies to government employees. It says, in part: "An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity."
The top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Congressman Elijah Cummings, sent a letter to the committee's chairman, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, requesting an investigation and suggested disciplinary action could be taken against Conway.
Chaffetz is reported to have characterized Conway's comments as "wholly unacceptable," but Capitol Hill veterans said it was unlikely that any action would be taken against her, since she is an employee of the executive branch of government, reporting to the president.