Kellyanne Conway isn't the real ethics scandal in Trump administration

Kellyanne Conway: Trump supports me 100%
Kellyanne Conway: Trump supports me 100%

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Kellyanne Conway: Trump supports me 100% 04:21

Story highlights

  • SE Cupp: Suddenly, the GOP is getting together with Democrats to probe ethics issue -- Kellyanne Conway's pushing Ivanka Trump merchandise. Really?
  • Cupp: With shady ethics and lies abounding in the new administration, why are Republicans protecting Trump from the scrutiny he deserves?

S.E. Cupp is the author of "Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity," co-author of "Why You're Wrong About the Right" and a columnist at the New York Daily News. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own.

(CNN)In Washington -- Hollywood for ugly people -- fashion doesn't usually get much attention, unless it's for all the wrong reasons. There was that, ahem, dress -- remember, it was blue? Or Sarah Palin's $695 beaded silk bolero jacket right out of "Three Amigos"?

And of course, there was President Obama's infamous tan suit moment. We were all Republicans that day, amiright?
But somehow, in this era of unprecedented partisan divide, Republicans and Democrats are coming together in the name of fashion. That is, they are in rare agreement that Kellyanne Conway should not be hawking Ivanka Trump's clothing from the perch of White House Counselor.
    Booker: Kellyanne Conway clearly broke the law
    Booker: Kellyanne Conway clearly broke the law

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    Booker: Kellyanne Conway clearly broke the law 01:14
    They are right to be offended. It's totally inappropriate, and possibly an ethics violation, to go on Fox News and "give a free commercial," as Conway herself called it, for the President's daughter's clothing line. "Go buy Ivanka's stuff," she said. "It's a wonderful line. I own some of it. Go buy it today, everybody. You can find it online."
    This was in response to Nordstrom department stores winding back their relationship with the clothing line in response to slow sales. But Conway's defense was unseemly, unprofessional and, frankly, unacceptable.
    Which is presumably why House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, called it "wrong, wrong, wrong," at a Utah townhall.
    To show just how seriously he and his committee are taking the matter, he and Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings will refer Conway for an ethics investigation, calling her remarks "clearly over the line."
    "It should never have happened," he said, "and they better learn this lesson very quick."
    Sounds like he means business.
    I'll be honest, the episode isn't sitting well with me, but not for the reasons it should.
    Kellyanne Conway: Go buy Ivanka's stuff
    Kellyanne Conway: Go buy Ivanka's stuff

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    Kellyanne Conway: Go buy Ivanka's stuff 01:54
    Of course, Conway shouldn't hawk Trump family merch on television, even if in a moment of levity, she was trying to be funny. But, it's no excuse not to know -- especially considering Trump's labyrinthine web of business ventures -- that she shouldn't use the White House for someone's profit.
    The more bothersome aspect of all this? This is what it takes to get the needle of a Republican's ethical Geiger counter to move?
    Bravo to chairman Chaffetz for looking into Conway's couture calamity, but what about all the other stuff?
    Back in January, before Trump was sworn in, Chaffetz seemed satisfied that Trump's myriad business ties wouldn't present any conflicts of interest. "I do believe that he has set up a plan where the revenue or the profits that are coming to the hotel will be given directly to the Treasury," he said, referring to Trump's Washington hotel.
    He was unconcerned about the Emoluments Clause, which prevents presidents from accepting gifts from foreign governments. "Now the Emoluments Clause, he's going to have to have to look at, and we'll see how that rolls out. The president has a duty and obligation to comply with the law, but again he's exempt from almost all of these things."
    He insisted then, and again just this week on CNN, that he was not going to go on a Democrat-directed "fishing expedition" to see if Trump is following the law.
    It's no wonder his own constituents are angry. At a Utah townhall, the same one at which he scolded Conway for her actions, Chaffetz was booed and jeered by voters who wanted more investigations of Trump's businesses, yelling "Do your job!"
    In a state that voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton a whopping 45.5% to 27.5%, the scene was a jarring one. But maybe it's what Chaffetz needed to see to remember that his job is to "exercise effective oversight over the federal government ... and work proactively to investigate and expose waste, fraud, and abuse," according to the committee website. Doesn't "proactively" actually describe a fishing expedition? Otherwise he's relying solely on fishmongers -- or whistleblowers -- to hand him investigations.
    Kellyanne Conway's full interview with Tapper
    Kellyanne Conway's full interview with Tapper

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    Kellyanne Conway's full interview with Tapper 25:19
    But it goes beyond Chaffetz and his committee. Republicans in Congress, so giddy that there's an R in the White House again, seem willing to overlook a whole host of unsettling White House developments in order to protect Trump from the scrutiny he deserves.
    When President Trump questioned the authority of a "so-called" federal judge on Twitter, where were separate powers enthusiasts in the Republican House and Senate to defend his legitimacy? Nowhere.
    Are any Republicans concerned that Trump's national security adviser may have violated the Logan Act when he reportedly discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States, before Trump was elected?
    Will any Republicans say they mind that the President and his spokespeople regularly mislead or lie to the public about matters large and small on national television?
    If Obama had called a raid in which a US soldier was killed a "winning mission" and then scolded an actual war hero who questioned it, Republicans would have launched one of three dozen investigations.
    White House plugs Ivanka Trump's brand
    White House plugs Ivanka Trump's brand

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    White House plugs Ivanka Trump's brand 01:43
    In fact, switch Obama for Trump in any one of these scenarios and Republicans would be calling the first few weeks of his presidency a zombie apocalypse. Instead, they seem content to whistle past the pile of corpses, pretending not to notice.
    It seems like the outrage over Kellyanne Conway's comments might be a way of pretending to appear fair and responsible, instead of mustering up the courage to object to far more important and disturbing infractions.
    I'm not buying it. If Republicans want to preserve any suggestion of ethical credibility, they'll start taking the Trump administration's many troubles more seriously.
    Forget the clothes. Focus on the country.