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Ethics office urges White House to consider punishing Conway for Ivanka Trump comments

Kellyanne Conway is seen as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks at a press briefing at the White House.
Matt McClain | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Kellyanne Conway is seen as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks at a press briefing at the White House.

An independent government ethics office has urged the White House to probe and potentially discipline President Donald Trump's advisor Kellyanne Conway for comments she made supporting Ivanka Trump's clothing line.

In a letter released Tuesday, Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub told deputy White House counsel Stefan Passantino that Conway appeared to breach a rule preventing her from using her position to promote private products. On Thursday, Conway said on Fox News to "go buy" the president's daughter's Nordstrom line, later adding that she would "give it a free commercial."

"These facts, if true, would establish a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position ... Therefore, I recommend that the White House investigates Ms. Conway's actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her," Shaub wrote.

The ethics office cannot discipline federal employees but is charged with recommending possible punishment. Therefore, the final decision on whether to discipline Conway comes down to the White House.

Press secretary Sean Spicer previously said that "Kellyanne has been counseled" for the remarks. However, Shaub said, "OGE has not yet received notification of any disciplinary or other corrective action" against Conway.

Conway's apparent promotion of the brand followed the president's public attack on Nordstrom in response to the department store saying it plans to stop selling Ivanka Trump products. The president alleged that Nordstrom treated his daughter "unfairly," renewing concerns that he is using his platform to affect his family's business interests.

The chain faced backlash from some consumers for selling Ivanka Trump–branded products amid concerns about her father's policies. It said its decision was based only on business considerations.

Shaub asked that Passantino notify the OGE about "the findings of [the White House's] investigation and any disciplinary or other corrective action taken in this matter" by Feb. 28.

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., also asked the OGE for its recommendation on Conway's comments.