The government’s ethics watchdog is recommending that the White House investigate and possibly discipline President Donald Trump’s counselor Kellyanne Conway.
In a letter made public Tuesday, the Office of Government Ethics wrote to White House attorneys that there’s reason to believe that Conway violated the standards of ethical conduct for executive employees by endorsing Ivanka Trump’s fashion line during a Fox News television interview last week.
The letter notes lawyers for the White House and OGE spoke on Feb. 9 – the day of Conway’s interview – and that the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Oversight Committee asked OGE to follow up.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said last week that Conway has been “counseled,” but the OGE said it has yet to receive any guidance on what if anything happened as a corrective action. The OGE is requesting that White House lawyers tell them in writing by Feb. 28 what they’ve done about the matter.
The recommendation came on the same day that Conway said the storm over national security adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia made his situation “unsustainable,” prompting Flynn to resign less than a month into the new Trump administration.
Flynn’s ouster appeared to be driven more by the idea that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials than by the content of his discussions with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Still, the matter deepened questions about President Donald Trump’s friendly posture toward Russia.
Conway told NBC’s “Today” show that Flynn “knew he’d become a lightning rod” and made the decision to resign. Conway’s comments came one day after she said the president had “full confidence” in Flynn.
Flynn’s resignation – which one White House official said was offered at the request of the president – came after reports that the Justice Department had alerted the White House weeks ago that there were contradictions between Trump officials’ public accounting of the Russia contacts and what intelligence officials knew to be true based on routine recordings of communications with foreign officials who are in the U.S.
The revelations were another destabilizing blow to an administration that has already suffered a major legal defeat on immigration, botched the implementation of a signature policy and stumbled through a string of embarrassing public relations missteps.
White House officials haven’t said when Trump was told of the Justice Department warning or why Flynn had been allowed to stay on the job with access to a full range of intelligence materials.