WASHINGTON — Democrats are calling President Donald Trump's most recent tweet a potential conflict of interest. Republican senators, however, are hesitant to weigh in.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Nordstrom was treating his daughter Ivanka Trump "so unfairly" for dropping her clothing line. Nordstrom has said it decided to drop the line because of declining sales.
Democratic members of Congress, such as California Rep. Ted Lieu and Sen. Bob Casey, almost immediately responded with criticisms of the president's decision to call out a business for not working with his daughter.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump's tweet Wednesday afternoon by saying Nordstrom's decision to no longer carry the Ivanka Trump line was a "direct attack" on the president's policies and his daughter's name.
Republicans on Capitol Hill, however, would not say whether the tweet was appropriate.
"You know, I'm not going to tell the president what to do," said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn.
"I don't know what his intentions are," Cornyn said when asked whether the tweet presented a potential conflict of interest.
Sen. Roy Blunt said he hadn't seen the tweet, but that in general, Trump "just communicates differently than any president that we can compare to." Blunt said he believes "it's a mistake to try to judge how he does what he does based on how anybody else would do it." But Blunt acknowledged that his analysis wouldn't apply to a specific business-related issue.
When BuzzFeed News explained Trump's tweet to Blunt, he pointed to a blistering letter former president Harry Truman sent to a music critic who did not appreciate his daughter's performance.
Sen. Bill Cassidy also compared Trump's tweet to Truman's letter, and downplayed the fact that, unlike in Truman's case, the Trump family businesses involved millions of dollars. "I suppose for you and I, a million dollars is a lot of money," Cassidy said, "and this is a guy who, not so much, right?"
But Cassidy also said he believes Trump's tweet was likely that of a concerned father.
"You know, at some point you're a dad," Cassidy said. "As a dad, I understand sometimes, you're a dad first. So you know, all I can say is, he loves his daughter, he's a dad."
Other Senate Republicans, such as Sens. Susan Collins, John Kennedy and Mike Lee, said they either hadn't seen the tweet or did not have time to comment on the matter.
"I think that they probably feel they have bigger fish to fry, like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and other big trickle-down tax cuts," Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said of Republicans' hesitancy to speak about the president's Twitter activity.
But, Murphy said, "no one should be shocked" by Trump using "the White House in order to advance his family's financial interests."
"Newsflash, Donald Trump is using the presidency in order to enrich himself," Murphy said. "It's been clear from the minute he announced his candidacy in Trump tower that his intent is to use the campaign and the White House in order to make himself and his family money. [...] This will continue."
Emma Loop is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. PGP fingerprint: 4A39 DD99 953C 6CAF D68C 85CD C380 AB23 859B 0611.
Contact Emma Loop at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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