A top White House lawyer who provided guidance to administration officials navigating ethics rules is leaving at the end of the week – in advance of the departure of White House counsel Don McGahn.
Stefan Passantino – who responded that top official Kellyanne Conway acted ‘inadvertently’ when she told TV viewers to ‘go buy Ivanka’s stuff’ – is leaving his post Friday.
He is one of several deputies to McGahn that have left the White House counsel’s staff. Trump revealed on Twitter this week that McGahn would be leaving in the fall, then fired off a series of Tweets Thursday saying Ivanka Trump was not involved in ‘pushing’ him out, and saying his exit had nothing to do with the Russia probe, which he termed a ‘witch hunt.’
The exodus of legal talent comes as a series of potential legal standoffs loom. Special counsel Robert Mueller continues his Russia probe, Trump continues to publicly discuss the potential firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, while Democrats are hoping historical trends will hold and allow them to gain seats or even capture the House.
White House ethics lawyer Stefan Passantino’s (left) last day is Friday. He is being followed out the door by White House counsel Don McGahn (right)
Passantino has advised White House officials Kellyanne Conway (pictured) and Ivanka Trump on potential ethics issues
Passantino advised Conway and pushed back at a top administration ethics official who recommended Conway fact sanction for her on-air promotion of Ivanka Trump’s product line.
Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner (back left), have been identified as among those displeased with a story about White House counsel Don McGahn’s cooperation with Robert Mueller’s investigators
Passantino pushed back, saying the comment was made in a ‘light, offhand manner,’ therefore not triggering bans on using the White House for commercial promotion.
Initial reports on McGahn’s departure have floated inside White House lawyer Emmett Flood as a likely replacement.
NBC http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/398864-wh-lawyer-in-charge-of-policing-trump-officials-ethics-to-leavereported Thursday that Trump’s legal team is weighing in against the idea.
Flood has been boning up on legal strategy and would participate in White House efforts to contest a subpoena that could be issued by Mueller’s office. Prolonged negotiations over having Trump submit to an interview have failed to bear fruit, despite Trump saying in the past he would like to be interviewed.
The Trump lawyers are reluctant to give up Flood’s firepower, which would be of use when countering a potential impeachment. He previously represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment.
Former head of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub, who battled with Passantino, blasted his counterpart last month following a report on his likely departure.
He told The Hill Passantino was ‘openly hostile’ to the government ethics program.
‘I’m glad to hear he’s leaving,’ Shaub said. ‘He is a nice guy — charming even, and easy to like on a personal level. I’d want him as a neighbor, but not as an ethics official.’
He continued: ‘He’s done more harm than good in his brief stint in the White House. His detrimental influence on the government ethics program under the Trump administration was a factor in my decision to resign.’
Trump on Thursday angrily pushed back on media reports about his sudden announcement of White House counsel McGahn’s exit – and insisted his daughter Ivanka were not involved in his ouster.
He also said special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe – which includes an inquiry into possible obstruction of justice with McGahn as a key witness – wasn’t remotely a factor in the decision.
‘The Rigged Russia Witch Hunt did not come into play, even a little bit, with respect to my decision on Don McGahn!’ Trump tweeted Thursday morning.
Trump tweeted that the Mueller probe ‘did not come into play’ in McGahn’s departure
‘You know, I had to approve it. We didn’t claim executive –’ Trump said, asked if he was upset that retiring White House counsel Don McGahn spoke to Robert Mueller’s investigators
Trump fired off a pair of tweets about the impending exit of McGahn, who has been by his side since his campaign and was witness to some of the most dramatic scenes of his presidency, such as decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey.
Trump also defended his daughter against a New York Times report that she had complained about an earlier story that detailed anger inside the White House against the extent of McGahn’s cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller, as well as a suggestion that she was involved in a leak that helped precipitate Trump’s announcement of McGahn’s departure.
‘Ivanka Trump & Jared Kushner had NOTHING to do with the so called ‘pushing out’ of Don McGahn. The Fake News Media has it, purposely,so wrong!’ Trump wrote.