The White House became embroiled in a feud with retail giant Nordstrom Wednesday, highlighting the first family’s potential business conflicts and President Trump’s penchant for attacking businesses he perceives as foes.
Nordstrom stopped carrying Ivanka Trump’s line of clothing and accessories from its stores last week, saying that it will sell its remaining inventory but will not renew its agreement to sell products in her brand.
The retailer said the decision was based on poor product sales, although critics have noted that outside groups threatened to boycott stores that carry Trump family products on their shelves.
Nordstrom’s decision provoked the president to blast the company in a Wednesday tweet.
“My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person — always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” he tweeted.
The White House defended Trump’s attack at an afternoon media briefing, with press secretary Sean Spicer telling reporters that the company was “targeting” Ivanka Trump for political reasons.
Trump has the right to defend his daughter, Spicer said.
“There’s clearly a targeting of her brand and her name was out there, so even if she’s not running the company, it’s clearly her name on it and there’s clearly efforts to undermine that name based on her father’s positions on particular policies he’s taken,” Spicer said. “This is a direct attack on his policies and her name and so there’s clearly an attempt for [Trump] to stand up for her being maligned because they have a problem with his policies.” In a statement, the company said politics didn’t play a role in the decision. “We made this decision based on performance,” the company said. “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 department store was on a list with dozens of other companies targeted by a group called Grab Your Wallet, which urges consumers to boycott stores that sell products associated with Trump and his family.
Ivanka Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, is a senior adviser to President Trump. She does not have an official role within the White House but is among the most influential people in her father’s inner circle.
Grab Your Wallet said Nordstrom will be removed from its boycott list once it sells off its remaining Ivanka Trump inventory.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that two other companies on the group’s list, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, told employees to throw away signs advertising Trump’s line. T.J. Maxx also directed its stores to mix Trump’s products in with other products, which would make them less visible in stores.
Those moves have elicited an angry response from the White House.
“He ran for president, he won, he’s leading this country, and I think for people to take out their concern about his actions or executive orders on members of his family, he has every right to stand up for members of his family and applaud their business activity and success,” Spicer said. “When it comes to his family, he’ll be clear about how proud he is and what they’ve accomplished. For someone to take out their concern with his policies on a family member of his is not acceptable and the president has every right as a father to stand up for them.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rebuked the White House for the controversy, saying it was unbecoming of a president.
“I think it’s inappropriate, but he’s a totally inappropriate president, so it’s totally in keeping with whom he is,” Pelosi told reporters at the start of the Democrats’ annual issues retreat in Baltimore.
For now, Nordstrom is weathering the president’s blast. The retailer’s stock dropped briefly after Trump’s tweet, but the stock rallied and closed above its previous price at the end of Wednesday.
The feud highlights some of the conflicts of interest the first family faces. Critics maintain that the president and his family haven’t done enough to separate themselves from their expansive business ties.
Trump has transferred control of his company to his two adult sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., an arrangement that falls well short of past precedent and what ethics experts say is appropriate.
Those issues regularly complicate Trump’s presidency, as they did this week before he met with House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
Shortly before that meeting, Chaffetz said he was “curious” about Trump’s new hotel in Washington, D.C, which sits in a historic, government-owned building.
Trump’s contract with the General Services Administration prohibits elected officials from being a party to the lease or benefitting from it. Trump’s critics have called on Chaffetz to investigate whether the arrangement constitutes a conflict of interest.
Those conflicts of interest also extend to Trump’s spouse.
First lady Melania Trump filed a lawsuit this week with a media outlet over false claims that she was once an escort.
The suit alleges that Mail Media, which owns the Daily Mail, was damaging her “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to launch a successful line of beauty products.
President Trump’s critics have long claimed that he and his family want to profit personally off the White House. Many of Trump’s business interests are tied to his name’s value as a brand, which is at an all-time prominence now that he is in the White House.
Wednesday’s dust-up with Nordstrom also revealed Trump’s penchant for meddling in the private sector.
Trump has taken to Twitter to attack companies for opening plants abroad. He has used the medium to negotiate, as he did with Lockheed Martin and Boeing over aircraft prices.
Trump has also praised companies where members have supported him and has taken credit for pressuring companies, like Carrier, to keep jobs in the U.S.
Trump attacks Nordstrom over daughter’s clothing line