House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz says White House counselor Kellyanne Conway's promotion of Ivanka Trump's fashion brand on national television Thursday was "wrong, wrong, wrong, clearly over the line, unacceptable."
Chaffetz was referring to Conway's Thursday interview with Fox News in which she boasted she was giving the president's daughter "a free commercial here" and urged viewers to "Go buy Ivanka's stuff." Conway was standing in The White House briefing room at the time. Watch it here
It comes a day after President Donald Trump tweeted that his daughter was being "treated so unfairly" after Seattle-based Nordstrom announced it was dropping her line due to poor performance.
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person -- always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017
White House spokesman Sean Spicer later said the move was a "direct attack" on the President and Ivanka Trump.
Trump's actions and Conway's remarks Thursday sparked fresh questions about the new president's commitment to separate his official duties from his family's business interests.
Chaffetz, a Republican, said the White House must refer the Conway matter to the Office of Government Ethics for review. He said he and Democratic Oversight Leader Elijah Cummings are writing a letter to the office and he will also write to President Donald Trump about the matter.
"It needs to be dealt with," he told The Associated Press. "There's no ifs, ands or buts about it."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Public Citizen lodged complaints with the Office of Government Ethics, alleging that Conway violated federal ethics rules that bar federal employees from endorsing products and businesses. CREW officials say Conway also may have broken a federal law that prohibits the use of public funds for non-official purposes.
Asked about Conway's actions, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Thursday: "Kellyanne has been counseled ... on that subject." He would not elaborate.
Chaffetz said that isn't enough, and told NBC News that Conway's remarks were "wholly unacceptable."
The president said he has transferred management responsibilities for his real-estate and branding empire to his two adult sons and a longtime Trump Organization executive, but he has refused to relinquish an ownership stake in his companies.
“Anyone harboring illusions that there was some separation between the Trump administration and the Trump family businesses has had their fantasy shattered,” Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, said in a statement Thursday.
“Kellyanne Conway’s self-proclaimed advertisement for the Ivanka Trump fashion line demonstrates again what anyone with common sense already knew: President Trump and the Trump administration will use the government apparatus to advance the interests of the family businesses," he said.