Picture White House senior advisor Huma Abedin telling a panel of MSNBC hosts that everyone should go out and buy some Chelsea-Clinton-brand products, and doing it on location at the White House to boot, just to make the conflict of interest that much more glaring. Same question as yesterday: Why, with the Trumps already under an ethical cloud over the potential use of their public roles for private gain, would Trump and Conway want to pick a fight with Nordstrom for dumping Ivanka’s merchandise? It’s insane. All it does is hand Democrats some ad-ready footage for when an opportune moment finally comes to attack Trump on his conflicts. Explaining to the average voter why a “blind trust” is the best ethical option for Trump and his family is complicated; showing them video of Conway hawking Trump merch in the White House briefing room is crystal clear. How much extra bank could Ivanka possibly make from red-staters buying her stuff in political solidarity to make it worth the damage this is doing to Trump’s claim of clean hands in office?
As the Conway clip circulates this morning, lefties are passing around this relevant bit from the federal regulations governing conflicts of interest:
An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives, or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity, including nonprofit organizations of which the employee is an officer or member, and persons with whom the employee has or seeks employment or business relations. The specific prohibitions set forth in paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section apply this general standard, but are not intended to be exclusive or to limit the application of this section.
An on-the-street interview with Conway in which she touted Ivanka’s stuff would be a borderline case, presumably, because Conway would claim that she’s not “using her public office” to benefit her friend, merely speaking in a personal capacity. Doing it during a live shot from the White House on a major news network during a discussion of the day’s news with a White House placard in frame over her shoulder is … less borderline. I don’t know what she was thinking. I assume her defense will be that this was de minimis — just a throwaway line in a much longer interview to give her pal Ivanka some moral support. Think that’ll stop CREW or some other federal ethics watchdog from filing a complaint over it, though? Especially since, contra what Conway says at the beginning here, Ivanka hasn’t yet filed the paperwork to “step away” from her businesses.
It’s not just lefties who are criticizing Conway this morning, though. Peter Schweizer, who wrote “Clinton Cash” and is an editor-at-large for Breitbart, sounds shocked:
Said Peter Schweizer, who has worked closely with Trump aide Stephen K. Bannon and wrote the book “Clinton Cash,” which was critical of donations to the Clinton Foundation: “They’ve crossed a very, very important bright line, and it’s not good. To encourage Americans to buy goods from companies owned by the first family is totally out of bounds and needs to stop.
“Clearly, the Trumps feel some of this is related to politics. But whether that’s true or not, these marketing battles need to be fought by Ivanka and her company. They cannot and should not be fought by government employees and the White House,” Schweizer said. “It’s time to move beyond the mind-set and the role of a businessman and assume the mantle of commander of chief.”
The strangest part of the clip comes when Conway says she visited with Ivanka yesterday and that “she’s in a very good place.” “Why is she talking about her like she’s in a mental home after a bad break up?” asked Stephen “redsteeze” Miller. Seriously. How traumatic can it be to have your clothing line dropped by Nordstrom when you’re the gorgeous billionaire businesswoman daughter of the president and wife to his senior advisor?