The Office of Government Ethics and a leading Republican called her remarks improper, but the White House said she was just kidding and won’t be punished.
The White House said Tuesday it will not discipline Kellyanne Conway for making what amounted to an infomercial for Ivanka Trump’s clothing last month.
Deputy Counsel to the President, Stefan C. Passantino, sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics on February 28, telling the office that the White House rejects their assessment that Conway’s TV appearance on Feb. 9, an improper use of public office to endorse a product, necessitates further action.
“Consistent with this commitment to ethical compliance, the Office of White House Counsel immediately undertook a review of the facts and circumstances surrounding comments made by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, relating to the business interests of the President’s daughter Ivanka Trump….” Passantino wrote in a letter to the OGE provided to The Daily Beast by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“As part of the subsequent review, I have personally met with Ms. Conway to review the Standards of Conduct that employees of the Executive Office of the President are expected to follow, including the provisions relating to the appropriate use of one’s official position,” he continued.
The White House letter concluded that Conway acted “inadvertently and is highly unlikely to do so again.”
Passantino also contends that Conway’s remarks were made without ill intent.
“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,” Passantino wrote. “Both before and after receiving your letter, I personally met with Ms. Conway and advised her that her comments regarding Ms. Trump’s products implicated the prohibition on using one’s official position to endorse any product or service. Ms. Conway has acknowledged her understanding of the Standards and has reiterated her commitment to abiding by them in the future.”
The White House and the OGE have not responded to requests for comment.
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics gave the White House a deadline of February 28 to provide them with a response after a February 14 letter recommended potential disciplinary action for the remarks.
In the initial letter, OGE director Walter Shaub Jr., wrote to Stefan C. Passantino, deputy counsel to the president: “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.”
Conway explicitly referred to her remarks as a “commercial” during the segment in question.
“I’m going to give a free commercial here,” Conway said from the White House Briefing Room.
“Go buy it today, everybody.”
The remarks drew widespread disapproval from ethics watchdogs and both House Democrats and Republicans, including Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who said the statement was “clearly over the line.”
It is unclear whether there will be further action sought by the Office of Government Ethics.