Stefan Passantino: Donald Trump's ethics lawyer 'to leave White House today'

Administration 'an ethics hazard zone, nobody could thrive in that environment,' says former Obama counsel

Sarah Sanders: It is a "ridiculous accusation" to say Trump has ever lied

The deputy White House counsel, Stefan Passantino, is reportedly to step down today just a day after it was announced the government’s top lawyer would also leave his position.

Don McGahn, the top-ranking White House counsel, will leave by the autumn, Mr Trump announced on Twitter. The president said: “I have worked with Don for a long time and truly appreciate his service!”

Mr Passantino, who is responsible for overseeing ethics issues for Donald Trump’s staff, was due to exit on Thursday, according to Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs.

A Politico report from July also presaged Mr Passantino’s departure, while the Washington Post reported he was due to step down on Friday.

Norm Eisen, ethics czar under Barack Obama and a former US ambassador to the Czech Republic, claimed he was surprised Mr Passantino had not resigned earlier.

He told CNN’s Don Lemon: “He has a nightmare client, possibly the worst client in the history of American ethics, President Trump. Look at the damage the president has done to the reputations and the careers and the freedom of the people around him.

“Start with the criminal investigations, almost 190 charges by special counsel Mueller, the president’s former national security adviser pleading guilty, his fixer Michael Cohen pleading guilty, and that’s just breaking the law.

“The violations of ethics and norms have been even worse, thousands of them, too many to count. That’s an ethics hazard zone, nobody could thrive in that environment.”

According to Politico‘s original report, Mr Passantino had been planning his departure for some time. A resident of Atlanta, Georgia, he had reportedly been commuting to Washington DC since he joined the administration in January 2017.

The White House has previously been forced to defend its rate of staff turnover following a string of high-profile departures including Gary Cohn, Mr Trump’s senior economic adviser.

Following claims by Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, that the administration was being “hollowed out” as top-level officials left, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was “an intense place, as is every White House”.

“It’s not abnormal that you would have people come and go,” the press secretary added in March.

Other notable departures have included two press secretaries, Sean Spicer and Anthony Scaramucci; Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state; Steve Bannon, the chief strategist who returned to the helm of Breitbart News; health and human services secretary Tom Price; James Comey, the FBI director; Walter Shaub, director of the independent Office of Government Ethics; HR McMaster, the national security adviser; veterans affairs secretary David Shulkin; and Hope Hicks, the president’s talismanic director of strategic communications.

The Independent has contacted the White House for comment.

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