Donald Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway violated federal ethics laws today when she used a White House interview to encourage Americans to “go buy Ivanka’s stuff” — a direct attempt at using the office of the presidency to funnel money into a clothing company partly owned by Donald Trump himself. The incident caused such an uproar this afternoon, with so many Americans simultaneously filing ethics complaints about Conway, that the Office of Government Ethics website crashed in the process.
If you tried to visit the official oge.gov website at a certain point this afternoon, you were greeted an error message that looked something like this:
The unprecedented number of ethics complaints being filed this afternoon against Kellyanne Conway and the Donald Trump administration prompted the Office of Government Ethics to post the following response via its official Twitter account:
“OGE’s website, phone system and email system are receiving an extraordinary volume of contacts from citizens about recent events. OGE works to prevent ethics violations. OGE does not have investigative or enforcement authority. Congress, GAO, the FBI, Inspectors General, and the Office of Special Counsel have the authority to conduct investigations. When OGE learns of possible ethics violations, OGE contacts the agency, provides guidance & asks them to notify OGE of any action taken. OGE is actively following this agency-contact process.”
In other words, the correct alarms have been sounded, and the proper processes are in motion. The question now becomes which of the above named agencies, if any, will be willing to act on the White House ethics violations after having been alerted to the matter by the Office of Government Ethics. The Republican majority in Congress is extraordinarily unlikely to take any punitive action against the Trump administration at this time, leaving it to the other agencies to do their jobs. But the OGE itself has heard the public’s message loud and clear.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report