Less than a month after Donald Trump’s inauguration, Kellyanne Conway appeared on national television and encouraged the public to buy Ivanka Trump’s merchandise. At the time, the White House was pushing back against retailers who’d dropped the president’s daughter’s product line following poor sales.
The Office of Government Ethics wasn’t pleased, warning the White House there was “strong reason” to believe the presidential aide misused her office and violated ethics rules.
Several months later, in November, Conway returned to the airwaves and tried to use her position to support Roy Moore’s Republican Senate candidacy. We now know this was problematic, too.
Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to President Donald Trump, violated the federal law prohibiting some political activity by high-level officials, in two television interviews she gave, and has been recommended for disciplinary action, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said Tuesday.
A report by that office on Conway’s alleged Hatch Act violations said that in both cases, “Conway appeared in her official capacity” and in one case “advocated against one Senate candidate and gave an implied endorsement of another candidate.”
The report explained that the White House official engaged in “prohibited political activity,” and just to twist the knife, the report added that Conway ignored the rules after receiving “significant training on Hatch Act prohibitions.”
The matter has been referred to the president “for appropriate disciplinary action,” which will probably mean nothing will happen to her. That said, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, called for “swift and serious disciplinary action against Ms. Conway,” adding, “Anything else sets a terrible example.”
Look, I know that the number of scandals surrounding Trump World is itself stunning, and that the Russia scandal alone – to my mind, one of the most dramatic controversies in American history – may yet bring Trump’s presidency to a premature end. By comparison, Conway’s transgressions no doubt seem trivial.
But when nearly every day brings news of another White House official with another legal and/or ethical mess, I think it’s a mistake to treat routine wrongdoing as background noise.
Postscript: Just so everyone’s clear, today’s report came by way of the Office of Special Counsel, which is not the same as the Special Counsel’s office. This is confusing, of course, but the latter is Robert Mueller and his team, while the former is a Justice Department office that investigates Hatch Act violations and responds to complaints from whistleblowers.
Or put another way, Mueller and his investigators had nothing to do with today’s report.