WASHINGTON — A group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to the White House counsel Friday demanding that the Trump administration put a stop to the “buy Ivanka stuff conflicts of interest,” a day after a senior adviser to the President plugged his daughter’s fashion brands and landed in the middle of an ethics controversy.
The senators weighed in Friday on remarks Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, made on TV urging consumers to buy Ivanka Trump’s merchandise after Nordstrom dropped her fashion line.
The senators pointed to the appearance and remarks Conway made on “Fox & Friends,” in which she said: “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you. I hate shopping and I’m going to get some myself today.”
Conway said, “This is just a wonderful line. I own some of it. I fully — I’m going to give a free commercial here. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online.”
She made the remarks a day after President Trump blasted Nordstrom on Twitter for dropping his daughter Ivanka’s fashion line. Nordstrom fired back on Wednesday and said it dropped her brand because sales had “steadily declined” in the second half of the year.
Conway’s remarks prompted calls for ethics investigations, including a rebuke from a powerful Republican committee chairman in the House.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said in a tweet that what Conway did was “wrong, wrong, wrong,” and he joined with the ranking Democrat in asking the Office of Government Ethics for a review and disciplinary action if warranted.
Senate Democrats joined the fray Friday with their letter to White House Counsel Donald McGahn. They argued that Conway, who stood in the White House briefing room for her appearance on Fox, was acting in an official capacity.
“This endorsement of specific merchandise would appear to violate ethics laws and regulations, which clearly bar federal employees from endorsing any product or enterprise for private gain,” the senators said.
The Senate Democrats signing the letter were Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.); Tom Carper (Del.); Tom Udall (N.M.); Edward J. Markey (Mass.); Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Tammy Duckworth (Ill.).
“We write to request that you outline clear and specific steps the White House is taking to prevent further violations of government ethics laws by members of the White House and the Administration of President Trump,” they stated in the letter. “Yesterday’s statements by Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, were the latest in a series of statements and actions that suggest that the Trump Administration has either no understanding of, or complete disregard for, federal conflict of interest laws and regulations.”
The senators charged that it wasn’t the first time business dealings of the president and his family “may have run afoul of federal laws or created the appearance of impropriety.”
They pointed to particular instances where questions have been raised, including whether Trump’s hotel in Washington is in violation of its lease with the federal General Services Administration; a reported increase in fees in membership at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, which members’ names have not been disclosed, and First Lady Melania Trump’s claim in a lawsuit filed against Mail Media Inc. that being First Lady is a “unique once-in-a-lifetime” business opportunity.
“This pattern of behavior, in conjunction with President Trump’s failure to follow the advice of the Office of Government Ethics concerning his own assets, suggests that ethics violations will continue to plague this administration throughout the length of its tenure,” the senators noted. “This not only distracts us all from the important matters facing our country, but it denigrates the esteem with which our government is held at home and abroad. We urge you to act decisively to address these concerns and, in the interest of transparency, make public any guidance provided by your office to White House staff to prevent further ethical violations.”