SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said Thursday it "is just wrong, wrong, wrong" for White House counselor Kellyanne Conway to have promoted Ivanka Trump's fashion brand.
Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he and the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings, of Maryland, are referring the issue to the White House and the Office of Government Ethics.
"She cannot be using the assets of the bully pulpit of the White House to promote a product like that. It is just wrong, wrong, wrong," the 3rd District congressman told reporters after delivering his annual update to Utah House Republicans.
Chaffetz has been criticized for not investigating President Donald Trump's business dealings, even though his committee is continuing to look into allegations against Trump's Democratic opponent in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But he responded quickly to Conway's comments Thursday on Fox News, saying she was giving the president's daughter "a free commercial" by telling viewers to "go buy Ivanka's stuff."
On Wednesday, the president posted on Twitter that his daughter Ivanka had been "treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom," calling the luxury department store chain decision to drop her clothing and shoe line "Terrible!"
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Conway has been "counseled," but Chaffetz made it clear more needs to be done.
"Elijah Cummings and I are going to jointly send a letter to the White House and Office of Government Ethics, but it needs to be referred to them. It was clearly over the line, and it's not acceptable. She should have known better," he said.
The letter to the ethics office, released later Thursday, requests that "disciplinary action" be taken against Conway for an apparent violation of federal ethics regulations prohibiting actions that imply a government endorsement.
Chaffetz met with Trump for a half-hour earlier this week but said the president told him no oversight issues would be discussed. Instead, they talked about Utah's efforts to undo the Bears Ears National Monument and some reform proposals.
The congressman brought up his discussion with Trump about repealing the state's newest monument during his report to state lawmakers, in both the House Republican and Democratic caucuses, as well as the full Senate.
The House GOP caucus burst into applause and a few members said "wow" when Chaffetz told them that Trump "was well-versed enough on the topic that he actually brought up the Grand Staircase and wanted to talk about it."
Chaffetz also urged lawmakers to actively engage in Utah's Muslim community.
"These people have been vetted," he told House Republicans. "I do think they are feeling the heat of what they see on the television screens every day. … Let's take the high ground on this and make them feel welcome."
Chaffetz said there is a "need to vet certain parts of the world like Libya and Syria" in order to "keep the country safe," but he added the "spin" that the GOP is anti-Muslim is "wrong."
In the Senate, he noted he was a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and said "Mormons should understand being picked on as a religious minority," and Utah should be a model for the rest of the country.
Chaffetz also spoke to the House Democratic caucus, where Rep. Marie Poulson, D-Cottonwood Heights, told him members "are wondering if you have the political courage to be an equal opportunity investigator" and look into questions surrounding Trump.
“Within the last hour, hour and a half, I became aware of what Kellyanne Conway said,” Chaffetz told the Democrats, describing her efforts on behalf of Ivanka Trump as "over the top."
"Of course I'm going to call that out," Chaffetz said. "My job is not to be a cheerleader to the president."
Contributing: Ryan Morgan