Attorney Stefan Passantino serves as the White House Ethics lawyer, a job that can be stressful under the best of circumstances and administrations. He is charged with making sure that everything that goes on with people that are directly connected to the White House is ethical. He monitors everything they do to ensure that there are no ethical problems regarding policy, and that there is no graft, no abuse of power, and no conflict of interest. It is a job that has often been termed as “the cleanup man.” The current “cleanup man” has decided it is time to move on, stating he plans to vacate his position by the end of this summer.
According to Vanity Fair, allies of Passantino have said he is working in an “impossible” job. They present several points to consider when defending that assertion. The president reportedly continues to refuse to release his income tax statements, making it nearly impossible to ascertain where his income is coming from. President Donald Trump may not have divested himself of his known business assets and may continue to get quarterly reports on them from his son, despite his promises to place them in a blind trust while campaigning. He has properties directly benefiting from holding office, including Mar-A-Lago, his hotel down the street from the White House, and Trump Tower in New York where his wife, Melania Trump, and their son Barron, reside part-time.
punch lines write themselves…. https://t.co/tr0G3HPKLF
— Eric Boehlert (@EricBoehlert) July 25, 2018
His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka Trump reportedly earned $82 million in income from enterprises outside of their duties connected to the White House. His cabinet secretaries, although not the direct responsibility of Passantino’s office, have regularly been plagued by high profile public scandals and allegations of graft, making it potentially the most corrupt administration in U.S. history as per Vanity Fair. And because they are presidential appointees, that makes their scandals a concern of his client, President Trump.
Politico bolsters the claim by pointing out that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, former HHS Secretary Tom Price, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, have all been plagued by ethics scandals, leading to the resignations of a pair of them. Even Passantino has been alleged of ethical violations because of his professional relationship providing financial guidance to Trump adviser Carl Icahn which violated the White Houses’own ethics pledge, according to CNN.
Icahn was given a special title with no salary which allowed him to avoid divestiture and conflict of interest ethics disclosures. 9 pic.twitter.com/xasliOFZBp
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) August 24, 2017
Politico further reported that critics of the Trump administration have said the administration is “happy to bend, or altogether skirt ethical standards.” Norm Eisen, former Obama ethics czar, told Politico he was surprised Passantino lasted so long.
“I am amazed he made it as long as he did. His client was the White House, but its head, the president, is as difficult an ethics subject as has ever occupied the Oval. No ethicist could thrive in that environment.”
Former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub, who served for a brief period of time under Trump, told The Hill that he thinks Passantino is a nice guy and wouldn’t mind having him as a neighbor, but he was bad for the government ethics program. He was cited as saying Passantino was openly hostile to the program and that they clashed when working together.
“I’m glad to hear he’s leaving. 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. On a professional level, he has been openly hostile to the government ethics program, like nothing we’d ever seen. 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.”
BREAKING: The #2 Lawyer in the White House, Stefan Passantino, who is in charge of the Trump admin's compliance with ETHICS & CONFLICTS-OF-INTEREST rules, will resign this Summer
The only question I have is: What the hell was he doing anyway?
'Ethics and Conflicts" LOL!!
— Brian Krassenstein (@krassenstein) July 25, 2018
While multiple news outlets have reported an unnamed source connected to the White House as saying that Passantino had always planned to leave his post around this time, including The Hill, not everyone is so sure about that. There has been speculation that with the emoluments clause case against Trump being given the green light to proceed by a federal judge, that possibly his decision to leave now may have been partially motivated by that. Passantino has not announced any future plans aside from moving back to Georgia.