Conway possibly broke ethics law with Ivanka Trump plug


The Trump administration faced continued criticism over possible ethics violations Thursday after a White House official promoted Ivanka Trump's clothing line in a television interview.

"Go buy Ivanka's stuff," Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, told Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy.

Ivanka Trump has a "wonderful line," Conway added. "I own some of it. I fully, I'm gonna just going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today everybody. You can find it online."

Critics accused Conway of breaking federal ethics rules.

They included Public Citizen, a watchdog group that said it was going to file a formal complaint with the Office of Government Ethics.

The group's president, Robert Weissman, said Conway's remarks could not be misinterpreted as anything but a violation.

"Since she said it was an advertisement, that both eliminates any question about whether outsiders are unfairly reading into what's being said, and two, it makes clear that wasn't an inadvertent remark," Weissman said.

Weissman said Conway's remark was "yet more evidence" that Trump's earlier assertion that he'd separate his family's business interests from White House activities "was untrue."

Chris Lu, a former Obama White House aide and deputy labor secretary, tweeted a section of federal ethics regulations that he said Conway had broken.

The regulations say: "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."

Conway was responding to the outcry over Trump's criticism of Nordstrom for dropping his daughter's line. In a tweet on Wednesday, the president accused the retailer of treating his daughter "unfairly."

A spokesperson for Ivanka Trump has told NBC News that the brand had been selling well and that the move was in response to pressure from advocacy groups. Nordstrom has denied that.

Nordstrom stock ticked up a bit on Wednesday and Thursday.

Norm Eisen, former special counsel on ethics for Obama, told MSNBC that Trump's tweet was an abuse of power.

"He's putting the bully in the bully pulpit to attack this company on dubious factual assertions in order to promote his daughter," Eisen said.

Eisen pointed out that it remains unclear if the president has any financial stake in his daughter's business, and that there are a number of questions about his links to other parts of his family's empire.

"Literally everything he does has this miasma of conflict around it," Eisen said.

Eisen also said Trump's tweet gave Nordstrom grounds to sue.

"This is unfair business practices," he said. "There's a serious legal question. There are statutes across the country, including a very tough one in California."

But lawyer Maxwell Blecher, who specializes in unfair competition and antitrust cases, said Nordstrom did not have basis to sue under the California law.

"It's an expression of opinion," Blecher said. "It is not defamatory and it is not an unfair business act."

Then came Conway's Thursday morning plug on Fox.

Eisen returned to MSNBC to echo Lu's accusation of an ethical breach.

"It is not allowed for a government employee to use your public office for private gain," he said. "And by doing this ad, I have never seen anything like it. It's a violation of the rule. Pure and simple."