WH lawyer in charge of policing Trump officials' ethics to leave: report

WH lawyer in charge of policing Trump officials' ethics to leave: report
© Getty Images

White House attorney Stefan Passantino is reportedly planning to leave the Trump administration in the coming weeks.

Passantino, the deputy White House counsel responsible for policing ethics for Trump officials, joined the administration in January 2017 after formerly serving as an attorney to former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).


Four people familiar with the situation told Politico of Passantino’s plans to leave, which he has reportedly been forming for months. Passantino’s family lives in Georgia, and he has been commuting throughout his tenure in the Trump administration. 

The Hill has reached out to Passantino and the White House for comment.

Passantino has weathered a number of ethics scandals from Trump administration officials, including concerns about the use of private flights, improper spending of taxpayer dollars, accusations of Hatch Act violations and more.

Trump himself, as well as White House advisers Ivanka TrumpIvanka TrumpGrisham: Time in Trump administration 'will follow me forever' Grisham: Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump saw themselves as 'shadow president and first lady' Grisham says her 'enabling' cost lives during pandemic MORE and her husband, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerHillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money Kushner associate pardoned by Trump in plea discussions over cyberstalking charges Biden has an opportunity to put his own stamp on Arab-Israeli relations MORE, have been accused by critics of profiting from real estate holdings and Trump hotels throughout his presidency. Earlier Tuesday, a federal judge allowed a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause to move forward.

Though Passantino’s office does not directly oversee Cabinet secretaries, the Trump White House has been viewed by ethics experts outside the administration as a particularly challenging client.

Norm Eisen, former President Obama’s ethics chief and a prominent Trump critic, told Politico he was “amazed [Passantino] 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,” Eisen said. “No ethicist could thrive in that environment.”

Ex-White House ethics chief Walter ShaubWalter Michael ShaubThousands march on Washington in voting rights push White House defends plans for Hunter Biden art sale Hunter Biden artwork attracts ethics scrutiny: report MORE, who briefly served under Trump before resigning, said that Passantino was “openly hostile” to the government ethics program. The two clashed during Shaub’s brief tenure in the Trump White House.

“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.”

“On a professional level, he has been openly hostile to the government ethics program, like nothing we’d ever seen,” Shaub added. “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.”