The former White House ethics chief during the administration of George W. Bush, Richard Painter, offered some savvy advice to President Trump as he faces a vortex of legal challenges that threaten to suck him down into the abyss of impeachment and imprisonment.
In an appearance on MSNBC’s AM Joy this morning, Painter predicted that Trump would be fighting a losing battle against the mounting evidence that he violated the law in multiple instances on multiple occasions on multiple fronts.
Painter advice to the president was succinct: Trump should get ahead of the imminent firestorm of legal jeopardy by agreeing to a plea deal and resigning while he can still cut his losses.
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From the point of view of an ethics expert, Painter opined that Trump’s violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause through his profiting from foreign spending at his family-owned hotels and other properties was perfectly clear.
“Everybody is ignoring the law,” Painter said to host Joy-Ann Reid. “The General Services Administration signed a lease with him that specifically prohibited a United States government official from having an interest in the hotel, but they don’t want to enforce that lease. And they’ve come up with a convoluted opinion that explains away the clear terms of the lease. The emoluments from foreign governments going to that hotel are illegal.”
The ethics organization that painter leads, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), has sued the government over the continuing refusal to enforce the emoluments regulations.
“Congress won’t enforce the law, that’s been the problem over the past two years,” Painter argued. “But now we’ve got Bob Mueller catching up with the president, we’ve got the Southern District of New York, we’ve got the New York Attorney General. Criminal investigations, multiple charges on multiple fronts against his top associates.”
Painter offered the president some advice he’s likely to ignore and that Trump’s own attorneys are likely too savvy to say directly to the president themselves as they rack up their hefty legal fees.
“I really do believe it’s time for President Trump to work out a plea deal, resign the presidency, take lower charges and let this country move on. This is going to be a very, very ugly two years if he insists on staying in the White House and fighting criminal charges that are inevitable. It’s very clear he committed multiple crimes. He ought to be working on his plea deal as we work on putting together the country again,” Painter said.
While the former Bush ethics czar’s free advice would probably be the smartest move that Trump could make at this point, Painter’s solution would inevitably frustrate both the president’s defenders and his fervent opposition.
Trump supporters aren’t going to want to see their putative nationalist messiah step down in a cloud of disgrace and the president’s many progressive opponents certainly don’t want to see Trump escape a full accounting for the crimes he’s committed and be given the maximum penalty possible for each and every one of them.
You can watch former Bush Ethics Chief Richard Painter Speak with Joy Reid on MSNBC in the video clip below.
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Original reporting by Colin Kalmbacher at Law & Crime.