After the Nordstrom department store chain announced it was dropping Ivanka Trump’s accessory and clothing line, President Trump sent the company’s stock tumbling briefly after lashing out at the company using the official @POTUS account.
Now one of his top aides has been reprimanded for promoting her products.
In his daily press briefing, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that Kellyanne Conway was “counseled” for enouraging Fox News viewers to purchase Ivanka Trump's products during an appearance on Fox and Friends Thursday morning.
"Kellyanne has been counseled and that's all we're going to go with," Spicer said. "She's been counseled on that subject, and that's it."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, called Conway’s endorsement "clearly over the line” and “unacceptable.”
During her appearance, Conway encouraged Fox viewers to open their wallets in support of the president’s daughter, telling them to, “Go buy Ivanka’s stuff.”
“I hate shopping, but I’m going to get some myself today,” Conway, a special counselor to the president, said from the White House briefing room. “I’m going to give it a free commercial here, go buy it today.”
Conway also accused Nordstrom of trying to hurt President Trump by shedding his daughter’s line, but the company, whose stock price has seen an increase since Trump's comments, said it made the decision due to lagging sales.
“They are using the most prominent woman in Donald Trump’s [life],” Conway said. “Using her, who has been a champion for empowerment of women in the workplace, to get to him.”
“It is contrary to federal law to do what she did,” said Norman Eisen, who served as ethics czar in President Obama’s administration from 2009 to 2011. Eisen said Conway’s comments were a violation of the federal code that prevents government employees from using their public office for private gain.
“We can't have federal officials breaking federal law,” Eisen said.
Eisen cited 5 CFR 2635.702 of the federal code, which states federal employees "shall not use or permit the use of his Government position or title or any authority associated with his public office to endorse any product."
Larry Noble, an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Law School, also thinks Conway's comments seem to violate federal law.
Appears Kellayanne Conway may have just violated ban on Federal employee using public office for endorsement of product. 5 CFR 2635.702 https://t.co/mIvngSHCnk
— Larry Noble (@LarryNoble_DC) February 9, 2017
CNN’s Jake Tapper, whose interview with Conway on Tuesday went viral, reminded his followers on Twitter that U.S. taxpayers currently pay Conway’s salary:
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) February 9, 2017
The Financial Times also reported that throughout the presidential campaign, Ivanka Trump was a trustee for $300 million worth of stock in 21st Century Fox and News Corp. that belongs to Rupert Murdoch’s two youngest daughters. She officially stepped down on Dec. 28, according to the newspaper.
Trump’s tweet about Nordstrom drew swift criticism from ethics experts, slamming the president for appearing to use his position to drive business to his daughter’s company.
“He should not be promoting his daughter’s line; he should not be attacking a company that has business dealings with his daughter,” Larry Noble, general counsel at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center, told CNN, “and it just shows the massive amount of problems we have with his business holdings and his family’s business holdings.”
“If he was any other government employee, this would be illegal,” Noble added.
Nordstrom isn't the only retailer that has pulled back from selling Ivanka Trump's products. TJ Maxx instructed employees to throw away signage for her products and add her clothes to the store's regular sales racks, according to a report by the New York Times. Neiman Marcus has stopped selling her jewelry on its website, and the department store chain Belk reportedly dropped her shoe and handbag lines.
"We continually review our assortment and the performance of the brands we carry. And we make adjustments as part of our normal course of business operations," a spokesperson for Belk told Racked.