After reports surfaced that Nordstrom had officially decided to cut ties with the Ivanka Trump clothing and lifestyle brand, the President shot back — and drew criticism in the process.
It is not considered normal protocol for the sitting president to use a White House-affiliated platform to encourage or even opine on a relative’s business interests, particularly when the issue at hands at least appears to be purely commercial. Nordstrom maintains that its decision to drop the Ivanka Trump brand is purely a function of its recently declining sales.
Nonetheless, the White House has been up in arms over the issue, with press secretary Sean Spicer characterizing the move as a “direct attack” on the president’s policies.
For his part, Trump responded via his favored medium, Twitter.
“My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” Trump wrote on Wednesday on both his personal and official presidential Twitter accounts.
Ethics officials who served past Republican and Democratic administrations said Trump’s tweet was both unprecedented for a president and troublesome.
“This is misuse of public office for private gains,” Richard Painter, who served as Republican President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer, said in an email to Reuters. “And it is abuse of power because the official message is clear — Nordstrom is persona non grata with the administration.”
The minor conflagration over the Ivanka Trump brand — and the White House’s commitment to advocating for it — is the latest in a string of controversies related to the 45th president’s many and complex business interests in the U.S. and around the world. Trump’s web of international companies remains a sore point for his critics, particularly because the president thus far has refused to release his tax returns.
A spokeswoman for the Ivanka Trump brand declined to comment.
The White House, on the other hand, has lots of comments. Both on Nordstrom, and on those who have complaints about the White House having issue with a department store.
“For someone to take out their concern with his policies on a family member of his is just not acceptable. And the president has every right as a father to stand up to them,” Spicer said.
But Nordstrom maintains it isn’t personal, it’s business — and that Ivanka has been aware of their decision since early January.
“Over the past year, and particularly in the last half of 2016, sales of the brand have steadily declined to the point where it didn’t make good business sense for us to continue with the line for now,” the retailer told Reuters.