President Donald Trump says he supports his top advisor Kellyanne Conway after she plugged his daughter Ivanka Trump’s fashion line on national television. But the United States Office of Government Ethics feels otherwise.
After the snafu, Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Conway had been “counseled.” Now the OGE wants to know what kind of “counseling” Spicer was talking about.
In a letter to the White House, —addressed to President Trump’s deputy counsel Stefan Passantino— the director of the OGE, Walter Shaub, called out Sean Spicer and inquired about what type of disciplinary action had been taken against Conway.
“Although Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated during a press conference on February 9, 2017, that, ‘Kellyanne has been counseled, and that’s all we’re going to go with,’ OGE has not yet received notification of any disciplinary or other corrective action against Ms. Conway,” Walter Shaub wrote.
“When OGE has reason to believe that an employee may have violated the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch (Standards of Conduct), OGE is authorized to recommend that the employing agency investigate the matter and consider taking disciplinary action against the employee.”
Shaub added that the OGE felt disciplinary action was warranted writing, “Under the present circumstances, there is strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated the Standards of Conduct and that disciplinary action is warranted.”
The OGD director went on to describe the first principle of the government ethics program which is, “Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.”
Shaub detailed the reasoning why OGE felt disciplinary action was warranted. They described Conway’s gaffe, in which she 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.” Shaub then reasoned that Conway was on screen with the official seal of the White House and the American flag behind her, and this was clearly misuse of her official position.
“These facts would establish a clear violation of the prohibition against misuse of position. I note that OGE’s regulation on misuse of position offers as an example the hypothetical case of a Presidential appointee appearing in a television commercial to promote a product. Ms. Conway’s actions track that example almost exactly. Therefore, I recommend that the White House investigate Ms. Conway’s actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her.”
Copies of the letter were sent to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who is the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Rep. Elijah Cummings who is the ranking minority member.
You can read the entire letter here.