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Trump aide says endorsement of Ivanka's brand was 'light-hearted'
February 12, 2017 / 7:06 PM / 6 months ago

Trump aide says endorsement of Ivanka's brand was 'light-hearted'

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway arrives for the joint news conference of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 10, 2017.Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top aide to U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday defended his colleague, Kellyanne Conway, after she was widely criticized for her public endorsement of the fashion line of Trump's daughter, Ivanka.

Speaking on ABC's "This Week" programme, White House aide Stephen Miller said Trump adviser Conway was making a "light-hearted, flippant" comment when she urged Americans to buy Ivanka Trump's products.

Conway's comments prompted criticism from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as some legal experts who said she may have violated ethics rules that prohibit using a public office to endorse products or advance personal business gains.

In comments to the Associated Press last week, Republican Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House of Representatives Oversight committee, said Conway's statement was "clearly over the line, unacceptable."

Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the same committee, said on Sunday that Miller's characterization of Conway's remarks was incorrect. "This was a textbook case of a violation of the law," he said on "This Week."

Cummings said he was troubled by the fact that Trump is the authority who will ultimately decide how to punish Conway, if at all, after the Office of Government Ethics issues its recommendation on the matter.

Conway made the comments after retailer Nordstrom said it would stop selling Ivanka Trump's clothing line, a move that had prompted a tweet from the president blasting Nordstrom.

Nordstrom said it had made the decision to drop the brand because sales had steadily declined, especially in the last half of 2016, to where carrying the line "didn't make good business sense."

Nordstrom shares initially fell after the president's criticism last Wednesday, but closed up 4 percent on the New York Stock Exchange that day.

On Saturday, a spokesman for major U.S. retailers Sears and Kmart said they had removed 31 Trump Home items from their online product offerings in order to focus on more profitable merchandise.

Reporting by Julia Harte; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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