Ex-White House ethics lawyers: Trump would fail background check

Ex-White House ethics lawyers: Trump would fail background check
© Greg Nash

Two former White House ethics lawyers expressed concern in a new op-ed for USA Today that President TrumpDonald John TrumpKoch-backed group launches six-figure ad buy against Heitkamp Anti-abortion Dem wins primary fight Lipinski holds slim lead in tough Illinois primary fight MORE would not be able to get a security clearance in his own White House if he were not president.

Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, White House ethics lawyers under former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, respectively, wrote Wednesday that it is “troubling” that many factors would theoretically disqualify Trump from passing a background check.

Painter and Eisen first pointed to recent developments in the scandal surrounding an alleged affair between Trump and adult film star Stormy Daniels.

It was reported earlier this week that Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had complained that Trump had been slow to reimburse him for the $130,000 payment to Daniels to keep her quiet about the encounter.

“Those revelations would halt any normal security or ethics clearance in its tracks,” the two wrote. “They suggest that the payment may in fact have been a loan from Trump's attorney.”

Painter and Eisen’s watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a complaint with the Office of Government Ethics, alleging that the payment should have been considered a campaign expense and reported if it came from the Trump campaign.

The op-ed also referred to Trump’s financial dealings as a sign that he is susceptible to influence by foreign governments and banks.

“In every case, Trump’s personal financial interests give him an incentive that may conflict with the interests of the American people,” they wrote. “And these are just the instances that we know of.”

The piece also noted that Trump is possibly under investigation for criminal acts related to the federal investigation into Russian election meddling, including obstruction of justice, and highlighted the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against Trump.

“We cannot help but wonder what other concerning incidents of this kind may not yet have come to light,” they wrote. “If we were presented with such a job applicant when we were working in the White House, we would have been forced to consider that person’s susceptibility to blackmail.”

Painter and Eisen closed by accusing Republican congressional leadership of being “largely supine” to Trump and urging Congress to do “its job as a watchdog.”

Their column comes amid controversy about security clearance in the Trump administration. Chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE recently overhauled the interim security clearance process following the departure of a top aide accused of domestic abuse. Senior adviser and Trump's son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerOvernight Cybersecurity: Senate Intel releases election security findings | Facebook to meet with officials on Capitol Hill amid Cambridge Analytica fallout | Orbitz admits possible breach White House vents frustration with 'absurd' Mueller probe Trump legal team seeks to add GOP attorney Theodore Olson: report MORE, had his clearance downgraded from top secret to secret as a result of the changes.