Remember the Nordstrom mess? It just happened yesterday—you should remember.
But then again, this administration has been spewing a veritable firehose of bad proclamations, all while President Donald Trump sits, fingers poised over his smartphone, ready to post something else ridiculous on Twitter. So I wouldn’t blame you if you’d already forgotten about the Nordstrom kerfuffle and moved on to the frillion other bizarre, unethical, and unconstitutional things going on.
But come on—it really did just happen yesterday.
Here’s a recap: Nordstrom cut ties with Ivanka Trump. Trump tweeted that Nordstrom had treated Ivanka unfairly, which led to a brief reported dip in Nordstrom’s stock value and prompted a boycott from a bunch of people who likely either don’t shop at Nordstrom or who wouldn’t be caught dead in Ivanka’s clothes anyway. Those clothes, by the way, are made in China and I therefore have questions about how that’s supposed to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! (in all caps).
But I digress.
Trump’s tweet was later retweeted by the official @POTUS account, presumably by Trump himself. And then later, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary told reporters that Nordstrom’s business decision to drop Ivanka’s clothing line was a “direct attack” on Trump’s policies and Ivanka’s name.
If your mind is boggled that the president and his press secretary are pretending like a business decision is a political attack on the president, just wait! It gets better.
This morning, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s counselor and noted bullshit artist, gave a “free commercial” for Ivanka while speaking in an interview with Fox & Friends in the White House briefing room.
“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff, is what I would tell you. I hate shopping, but I am going to go get some myself today,” Conway said according to multiple news reports.
“This is just —it’s a wonderful line, I own some of it … I’m just gonna give a free commercial here, go buy it today, everybody, you can find it online,” she added.
Conway’s statements seem to be a violation of federal ethics law—Code of Federal Regulations section 2635.702 bars federal officials from using “his public office for his own private gain … or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity”—and folks are not amused. (Whether or not Conway is a “federal official” depends on whether or not Conway counts as an “employee” within the regulation at issue, but suffice it to say that a ton of legal experts think she violated ethics laws.)
For example, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) issued a statement calling for an ethics probe:
Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz requesting that the Committee refer for potential disciplinary action statements made on national television by Kellyanne Conway, the Counselor to President Donald Trump, that directly promoted and endorsed the President’s daughter’s private business.
“This appears to be a textbook violation of government ethics laws and regulations enacted to prevent the abuse of an employee’s government position,” Cummings wrote. “Since the Committee has direct jurisdiction over the ethics laws applicable to White House employees, I request that the Committee make an official referral of this matter to the Office of Government Ethics and request that it report back to the Committee as soon as possible with its findings.”
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left-leaning watchdog group, is also not amused. It filed a complaint earlier today with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) asking that office and the White House Counsel’s office to “investigate this apparent violation of federal law, ethics regulations, and other standards of conduct, and take any disciplinary action.”
As the law makes clear, public officials should not use their offices for either their own private gain or the private gain of others. Government resources should be used for public purposes, not to promote any private party’s products. Ms. Conway appears to have violated both the letter and the spirit of these rules when she used her position to endorse the accessories and clothing line of Ms. Trump, the daughter of the president. Furthermore, we are concerned about what appears to be a pattern developing of the use of official offices, particularly the White House and the Executive Office of the President, to benefit business interests of relatives and supporters of the president; Ms. Conway’s comments appear to be just the latest example of this trend. We hope you will act not only to respond to this apparent violation, but to reverse this pattern. CREW therefore requests that you commence an investigation into Ms. Conway’s conduct and take any necessary disciplinary action against her.
And Don W. Fox, former general counsel and former acting director of the OGE, told the Washington Post that “Conway’s encouragement to buy Ivanka’s stuff would seem to be a clear violation of rules prohibiting misuse of public office for anyone’s private gain.”
“This is jaw-dropping to me,” he said. “This rule has been promulgated by the federal Office of Government Ethics as part of the Standards of Conduct for all executive branch employees and it applies to all members of the armed forces as well.”
Even the aforementioned Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said that Conway’s comments were “wrong, clearly over the line, unacceptable,” according to the Associated Press. He is reportedly working jointly with Rep. Cummings in demanding an investigation.
Again, imagine—just imagine if any of President Obama’s spokespersons had behaved this way. Imagine if any of his press secretaries said that an attack on one of his daughters was an attack on his policies.
It is three weeks into the Trump presidency and shit is off the rails.
My brain hurts.