WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House told a government watchdog agency that Kellyanne Conway, a senior aide to President Donald Trump, acted “inadvertently” when she publicly endorsed the clothing and jewellery line of Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, according to a letter the administration released on Wednesday.
Conway came under criticism last month when she said on television that Americans should “go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” in comments that appeared to violate government ethics rules prohibiting the use of public office to endorse products or advance personal business gains. [nL1N1FU0XK]
In a letter to a government ethics watchdog agency, White House Deputy Counsel Stefan Passantino said he met with Conway after her comments and that she committed to follow the rules in the future.
The Office of Government Ethics has said the White House should consider taking disciplinary action against Conway.
But there was no mention in Passantino’s letter of any disciplinary action.
“We concluded that Ms. Conway acted inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again,” Passantino said in the letter to Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub.
“It is noted that Ms. Conway made the statement in question in a light, off-hand manner while attempting to stand up for a person she believed had been unfairly treated and did so without nefarious motive or intent to benefit personally,” the letter said.
Conway spoke about Ivanka Trump’s products after department store chain Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N) said it was dropping the brand of the president’s older daughter.
A day before her appearance on television, Trump complained on Twitter that Nordstrom had treated his daughter unfairly by dropping her line. [nL1N1FT1FA]
Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives’ oversight panel, criticized the White House response, saying other federal employees would likely be suspended if they made similar comments endorsing products or services.
Norman Eisen, a former ethics adviser to President Barack Obama, said each federal agency decides for itself how to handle such violations. He said he would have preferred a tougher response from Trump’s White House, but he said Passantino’s handling of the situation appeared reasonable.
Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Caren Bohan and Jonathan Oatis