Ethics Office Pressures White House to Discipline Kellyanne Conway

There is "strong reason to believe" Conway violated Standards of Conduct, ethics office says. There is "strong reason to believe" Conway violated Standards of Conduct, ethics office says. Evan Vucci/AP

The head of the Office of Government Ethics on Monday wrote to his White House counterpart to press for discipline on President Trump’s special counselor Kellyanne Conway following her on-air plug from the White House press room encouraging viewers to buy fashion products to boost Ivanka Trump’s business.

In a Feb. 13 letter to White House legal counselor Stefan Passantino released by Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform panel, OGE Director Walter Shaub recommended that the White House investigate Ms. Conway’s actions and consider taking disciplinary action against her.

Under current circumstances, Shaub said, “There is strong reason to believe that Ms. Conway has violated” the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch (Standards of Conduct) that were enacted as an executive order under the George H.W. Bush administration.

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Though White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Feb. 9 said that Conway “had been counseled,” the ethics chief noted that OGE had not received notification of any “disciplinary or other corrective action against Ms. Conway.”

Shaub also noted that Conway delivered her comments urging viewers to buy the products in front of the official White House seal and an American flag. His office is authorized, he added, to recommend such discipline.

Action on Conway had also been urged on OGE by the chairman and ranking member of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, and more than 42 other House members.

Shaub also noted that the hypothetical example given in the original Standards of Conduct described a presidential appointee appearing in a TV commercial. “Ms. Conway’s actions track that example almost exactly,” he wrote, asking for a response by Feb. 28. He copied White House Counsel Donald McGahn II.

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