Bush’s ethics lawyer just stunned Trump and Republicans with a major political announcement


The race for Al Franken’s vacant Senate seat in Minnesota just got interesting. Former White House ethics lawyer and stalwart NeverTrump conservative Richard Painter has announced that he will be leaving the Republican Party and running for Senate as a Democrat. 

He’ll be running against Sen. Tina Smith in the primary, who was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton after Al Franken resigned following a slew of sexual harassment allegations from eight different women.

“I tried to salvage the situation with the Republican party for a long time…We’ve had for decades a departure from the fundamental values of the Republican Party and from America” said Painter in his announcement. “Republicans insist that if you’re going to run for political office, you have to be loyal to President Trump. This is wrong. This is not the America I want to live in. This is not the America I want my children to live in.”

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Painter, a lawyer who began his career as a humble clerk on to a justice on the Ninth Circuit Court and made his way up to the highest levels of government to serve as President George W. Bush ethics lawyer – but seeing as the Bush administration launched an earth-shattering war on false pretenses while handing out hugely profitable contracts to companies closely linked to senior administration members, it’s clear his advice was not heeded.

Now he serves as the Vice-President of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and has spearheaded several major lawsuits against the president over the myriad ethical problems, particularly his wanton violations of the emoulments clause of the Constitution.


While Painter has indeed been an important voice calling out the President’s endless corruption and repressive impulses, it is still unclear what his actual politics are. After all, Painter’s own stated reason for his defection is the Republican Party’s abandonment of its “fundamental values,” – which traditionally encompass vague appeals to “small government,” laissez-faire capitalism, the privatization of the public sector, “civil liberties” for non-LGBT Americans, the dissolution of church and state divide, “fiscal responsibility,” and unrepentant militarism.

While it’s easy for Painter to argue that the Trumpian Republican Party has abandoned those “values,” by and large the party has simply slid into the abyss of extremism – and at any rate, the Democratic Party is ostensibly opposed to those “values” on a fundamental level.

The fact that a conservative man like Richard Painter thinks he can find the lost “values” of the Republicanism in the Democratic Party should set off alarm bells throughout party leadership.

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While it’s all very well and good that Painter is such an inspiring leader when it comes to defending the rule of law and ethical conduct in Washington, we need to see what he actually believes when it comes to the policy that affects millions of people before we can decide whether he’s worthy of joining us.

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Colin Taylor

Managing Editor

Colin Taylor is the managing editor of the Washington Press. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice, equality, and universal health care in America.