U.S. Markets open in 7 hrs 7 mins

Kellyanne Conway 'inadvertently' talked up Ivanka Trump's products, White House lawyer says

Jacob Pramuk

The White House has concluded that Kellyanne Conway acted "inadvertently" and without bad intentions when she said on national television to "go buy" Ivanka Trump's products.

In a Tuesday letter to Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub, White House Deputy Counsel Stefan Passantino said Conway is "highly unlikely" to use her position as a top White House advisor to discuss private interests again. He said that Conway "reiterated her commitment" to following rules against endorsing products, but did not signal that the White House took disciplinary action.

The OGE, an independent agency, urged the White House to consider punishing Conway, saying there was strong evidence that she violated the rule in question by talking about her boss' daughter's brand. It does not have the power to do take disciplinary action itself.

An OGE spokesman told CNBC on Wednesday that "we have received the letter and we are evaluating it."

In a Feb. 9, Fox News appearance, Conway apparently promoted the Ivanka Trump brand following President Donald Trump's public attack on Nordstrom in response to the department store chain saying it plans to stop selling his daughter's products. The president alleged that Nordstrom treated his daughter "unfairly," renewing concerns that he is using his platform to affect his family's business interests.

Conway in her appearance said to "go buy" the products, adding that she would give them a "free commercial."

"It is noted that Ms. Conway made the statement in question in a light, off-handed 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 in the letter to Shaub.

He said he met with Conway to review the ethics rules surrounding her position.

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., both previously criticized Conway's comments.

In a statement, Chaffetz said he will "continue to monitor this process to ensure the administration understands these types of comments are inappropriate and takes meaningful steps to prevent future missteps," according to The Washington Post.

Cummings argued that "other federal employees would likely be suspended for engaging in this conduct, and White House officials should not be held to a different standard."



More From CNBC