Some government ethics watchdogs quickly said Conway’s comments could violate a federal ethics rule barring employees from endorsing a product. Norm Eisen, a former top ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama, told MSNBC that the statement broke the law “pure and simple.”
Conway’s comment “isn’t just gross and unethical but it’s illegal,” tweeted Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard Law School. Larry Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center and former Federal Election Commission general counsel, also said that Conway may have breached the law.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Here is the text of the provision that critics said Conway may have violated:
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.
The global reach of the Trump family’s businesses has led to unprecedented concerns that it could use the office for personal gain. Trump did not divest from his businesses, but by law the president has more protection from conflicts of interest than other federal employees.
While the Trump Organization said Ivanka Trump stepped down from her roles there, she licenses her name to merchandise manufacturers, who then sell products at stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s, according to The New York Times. It’s not clear if she still receives royalties from her clothing licensing.