Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, discussed with Breitbart News Daily the controversy over the endorsement Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, gave to Ivanka Trump’s retail products.
“I always preface everything by saying I’m not a lawyer, but the legal statute here is pretty clear,” Schweizer told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow. “If you are on the taxpayer payroll, which White House staff are, you cannot endorse or encourage people to purchase certain products or certain lines. It’s pretty clear.”
“I get that there is a war going on and that people are trying to get to the president by going after his daughter,” he added. “I am the father of a daughter, and I get when somebody messes with your daughter, the desire to respond. But you know, the bottom line is once you become president, once you have a White House staff, those battles need to be fought by Ivanka and her team. I think she’s totally capable of doing that, by the way. This is a very astute woman. But you cannot have people that are being paid by America’s taxpayers encouraging people to buy products and talking about how wonderful products are. It is a clear violation.”
Schweizer said the essential questions to be asked are, “Was she joking?” and “Is this going to become a broad pattern where this is going on all the time?”
“Bottom line: you cannot do this kind of behavior while you are on the government payroll,” he declared.
Marlow proposed that the attention given to Conway’s personal comments about her friend Ivanka Trump’s products is wildly disproportionate after the Obama administration directly involved government in vastly larger business dealings, most dramatically by using the Internal Revenue Service to force Americans to buy products from preferred insurance companies under Obamacare.
“I think it deserves attention. It got attention, but there is no question that there is, I think, disproportionate attention being paid to this, compared to other things,” Schweizer agreed. “Is it a legitimate issue? Absolutely. I’ve called them out on this, and I think they need to be called out.”
“I will tell you, to just give you a small example of my world, I made a statement about this in the Washington Post yesterday,” he related. “The Post reporters I have dealt with, they have been very fair. They covered Clinton Cash. They’re covering this stuff. But as a result of that, Alex, I had all kinds of calls – from NBC, from CNN. I’m talking more than ten – and these are entities that had zippo, no interest whatsoever in Clinton Cash.”
“That’s where I think the fault is,” he continued. “There are reporters at some of these outlets that have covered both stories, and they have been fair to me, and they have been balanced, but there are a whole lot of reporters at a lot of news outlets – NBC and CNN would be two examples of that – that had no interest whatsoever in the very serious allegations in Clinton Cash. But once this statement comes out, they are suddenly doing backflips trying to get me on their shows or to comment on this particular topic. That’s where I think the hysteria and, frankly, the bias of this situation just really shows through.”
Schweizer noted that “there are penalties” associated with Conway’s transgression, and it could become “a really, really big problem” if a pattern of such behavior is established.
“I think part of what’s going on here is when you talk about the president, or when you talk about White House aides like Kellyanne Conway, these are people that have not served in government before,” he pointed out. “Kellyanne Conway, very, very effective political strategist, pollster, person that does messaging – she’s never been in the stratijacket of government ethics requirements before. This is a change, and we’re less than a month into the administration, so I think a lot of people will look at this and say, ‘Look, it needs to stop, and it should stop.’”
“I think, by the way, also you have to say the same thing to the president. Now, the president is not confined by these same ethics rules. The president is basically exempt from the vast majority of ethics rules,” he explained. “It’s been that way for a long time.”
“But you know, I have the same problem here. I mean, again, I completely get that you want to defend your daughter. You want to protect your daughter. All fathers, daughters get that completely. The problem is when you’re going on Twitter, and you’re calling out corporations like Nordstrom – that you as president, by the way, have regulatory control on – you could do a lot of things in your administration to intimidate and mess up these corporations. I just don’t think you can be doing that or should be doing that, ethics rules or not,” he said.
“It’s the kind of cronyism that I’ve denounced for a long time. I would kind of liken it to, imagine if Hillary Clinton had won, and she was out telling people, ‘You better donate to the Clinton Foundation,’ she was publicly telling corporations, ‘You better donate to my husband’s foundation.’ That kind of intimidation, I think, we just don’t want, and, I think, needs to stop,” he urged.
“I even think among Trump supporters, there’s this sort of frustration. Let’s move on now to the question of governing and all these issues that are important to us, and get them done, rather than fighting these sort of marketing battles involving companies that you’re involved with,” Schweizer added.
Charlie Spiering of Breitbart News joined in to offer another example of the previous White House conducting business marketing on an epic scale, far beyond anything Kellyanne Conway contemplated: President Obama’s pushing green energy technology and electric cars, such as the Chevy Volt. He asked where we draw the line between appropriate boosting of American products and ethical violations.
“I think that’s a great question, Charlie,” Schweizer replied. “I think one place where it’s a clear line is that if you or a family member own the business, you should not be out there promoting it. Because look, at the end of the day, I have no way – and I guess there is no way to measure if somebody, or the president, goes out and says,‘Buy Ivanka’s products,’ it’s hard to measure how much money, how many sales does that actually spur. But the problem is, the profits go directly into the family’s pockets.”
“In the case that you gave, unless Obama is a massive shareholder in General Motors, it’s not the same sort of issue,” he told Spiering. “I think that’s where people get tired of the self-dealing. If, for example, in the Clintons’ case, instead of pushing the Clinton Foundation and using their government power to get people to donate to the Clinton Foundation as a form of quasi-bribery – and I think the long pattern there is pretty clear – but instead of doing that, if they were just encouraging people to give to the Red Cross, and they were not on the board of the Red Cross, there were no kickbacks, they were not on the payroll, I don’t think people would have had as much of a problem.”
“But it’s the self-dealing. It’s the fact that the person or the institution that you are pushing and that you are promoting is putting money in the pocket of the family is where the line gets crossed,” he stressed.
Peter Schweizer is president of the Government Accountability Institute and a senior editor for Breitbart News.
Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Eastern.