President blasts retailer Nordstrom

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump blasted department store chain Nordstrom on Wednesday for dropping his daughter Ivanka's clothing line, prompting critics to accuse him of misusing public office to benefit his family's sprawling business empire.

After Trump's highly unusual move to use a White House platform to intervene in a commercial matter involving his daughter, Nordstrom reiterated that its action last week was based on declining sales of the Ivanka Trump products.

But White House spokesman Sean Spicer characterised the move as a "direct attack" on the president's policies.

"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 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."

Norman Eisen, an ethics adviser to Democratic president Barack Obama, noted that several states have unfair competition laws, including California where Nordstrom operates many stores.

The tweet, he said, could spark lawsuits if the company's brand was being injured by an unfair attack.

The wealthy New York real estate developer who became president on Jan 20 has declined to sell off his businesses despite demands from critics that he do so to avoid thorny conflicts of interest.

During a White House press briefing, Spicer painted Nordstrom's action as an attack on the president's daughter.

"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.

Trump on Jan 11 said he would maintain ownership of his global business empire but hand off control to his two oldest sons during his presidency. Trump's web of international companies remains a bit opaque since he has refused to release his tax returns, which experts have said would provide a clearer view of his business interests.

Ethics experts have said Trump's arrangement does little to address potential conflicts because he would still know what assets he owned, such as Trump-branded golf courses and hotels, and his family would continue to profit from them.

Ivanka Trump ran a clothing and jewelry business bearing her name, in addition to other work for the Trump Organization, before saying she would resign when her father was sworn in as president. Her father's various contentious actions and comments have prompted boycott efforts by critics and have driven some consumers away from Trump family businesses.

A spokeswoman for the Ivanka Trump brand declined to comment. — Reuters