I am Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush from '05-'07, professor of law at the University of Minnesota, and current vice chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Proof.

I am Nina Turner, Former Ohio State Senator, current President of Our Revolution, Former National Surrogate for Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign 2016. Wife, Mother, Sister, Professor and Motivator-In-Chief. Proof.

America’s political system is broken. We’re working to fix it.

This February 2-4, we’ll be at the Unrig the System Summit in New Orleans, to talk about corruption in government and the solutions to fix it. We’ll be joining dozens of other speakers, including top advocacy leaders, academics, activists, celebrities, journalists, and more.

If you’re interested in working across party lines on concrete solutions to fix our broken political system, then get your tickets now at www.unrigsummit.com.

Edit: Thank you for all of the questions. Richard Painter just answered a few more, but they may be lost in the comments. We're signing off. Have a great night!

Comments: 360 • Responses: 20  • Date: 

odamado78 karma

What policies to limit political corruption do you think have the most potential?

RichardPainter191 karma

The most important issue is reforming our campaign finance system, so money does not buy access to elected officials and does not influence their decisions. We also need to strengthen our rules and enforcement policies with respect to personal financial conflicts of interest of elected officials as well as receipt of profits and benefits from dealings with foreign governments in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution.

orangejulius51 karma

Manafort recently sued Meuller effectively saying he's not a prosecutor. What are your thoughts on that lawsuit? Is it a real legal challenge or an attempt to influence a future impeachment and removal proceeding to shoot for a pardon, or something else?

RichardPainter108 karma

The Manafort lawsuit against Mueller is unprecedented and appears to be entirely without merit. Challenges to prosecutorial authority are rarely made by defendants, and when they are, such challenges are almost always made within the criminal proceeding, not in satellite litigation, as was done here.

orangejulius49 karma

Mr. Painter - GOP congress members keep attacking Meuller as partisan. Have you ever interacted with Meuller and what do you think of those allegations?

RichardPainter153 karma

I met Robert Mueller when he was Director of the FBI and I was working in the White House. He is highly regarded by Republicans and Democrats, even though he has for years identified as a Republican. Allegations of partisanship against Robert Mueller are entirely without merit.

malcontented44 karma

Mr Painter, my wife and I love your comments on the news about this government. Please keep it up. Your clear headed thoughts are refreshing and give us hope. Knowing that you're not a fortune teller, what do you think is the mostly likely outcome for this disaster? Trump's resignation?

RichardPainter61 karma

At the rate he is going, President Trump has shown that he is not fit for office. I do not know how it will be resolved.

RatifiedHydramnios40 karma

You were the chief White House ethics lawyer under President Bush. What was the biggest ethical issue that came up during his Presidency?

RichardPainter79 karma

The most difficult moral or ethical dilemmas in the Bush administration arose before I entered the White House. These included the decision to go to war in Iraq and decisions about interrogation of prisoners in the War on Terror. In the White House, I dealt mostly with financial conflicts of interest for cabinet members and other senior administration officials, and while some of these issues were challenging, the vast majority of them were resolved to my satisfaction.

DaisyRidleyScott28 karma

Mr. Painter: With Trump as President, and seemingly most Republicans defending and joining him, do you still consider yourself a Republican?

RichardPainter48 karma

Yes, but I do not believe that most people who vote republican are still satisfied with the president. Republicans who are most vocal in support of the president are elected officials and pundits and other commentators on the far right of the political spectrum.

suaveitguy10 karma

Which journalists do you make it a point to follow and read for your news about the White House?

RichardPainter9 karma

There are many very good journalists covering the White House. I wouldn't want to pick favorites. Many of the best appear in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

chrisbrl889 karma

Is Congressional immunity inherently ethical? Further, is it not a conflict of interest that our elected representatives can pass legislation that they, themselves, are not subject to?

RichardPainter12 karma

Congressional immunity is appropriate in some circumstances where it is needed to protect the members of Congress in the performance of their constitutional duties, but congressional immunity can create incentives for members of Congress and their staff to engage in unethical conduct. Members of congress pass many ethics and other rules that apply to the executive branch but not to members of Congress and their staff. Sometimes this distinction is appropriate, but many times it is not.

chrisbrl883 karma

Can there ever be a middle ground? A way to "tweak" the nature of immunity that still allows the latitude required for elected representatives to perform their duties, yet reduces the incentive for taking advantage of immunity to engage in unethical conduct that isn't in the best interests of the citizens?

Perhaps letting parking in the fire lane slide, but not so much the kind of (for lack of a better term than "rent-a-representative") racketeering that's been going on since Congressional immunity was instituted in the '50s?

RichardPainter15 karma

I still believe that a lot of illegal conduct by members of Congress can be prosecuted despite the congressional immunity doctrine, because at least part of the illegal conduct takes place outside of the performance of their official duties.

chachmehoch9 karma

Mr. Painter. What do you think about Graham and Grassley going after Christopher Steele?

RichardPainter28 karma

This appears to be an effort to encourage prosecution of political opponents and persons who work for political opponents doing opposition research in political campaigns. Such use of the prosecutorial power of government is abusive and, if tolerated, could lead to the demise of our democracy.

suaveitguy8 karma

When did the left and right polarization get so stark? Rove, Nixon, or even earlier?

RichardPainter17 karma

There has always been polarization in our political system over a range of different issues, ranging from race relations, to war and peace and economic inequality. This ideological and political polarization has been more sharply defined in the political parties since at least the Nixon administration when President Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” sought to bring conservative Southern democrats into the Republican party. This development encouraged the Democratic party to move to the left and the Republican party to move to the right on a broad range of social issues.

LunaThestral7 karma

CREW currently has a lawsuit against President Trump for violating the emoluments clause, but do you think it will actually go anywhere in the courts? What do you think your chances are for success?

RichardPainter20 karma

There are three separate emoluments clause lawsuits against President Trump brought by three separate groups of plaintiffs. One of these is the CREW lawsuit which was dismissed on procedural standing grounds (not the merits) by the federal district court in New York. CREW is going to appeal this. The other two lawsuits in different courts have not yet been decided.

Rucser7 karma

Mr. Painter, first off thank you for providing a voice of clarity and sanity on the Republican side.

As an American citizen, i'm greatly worried about the following scenario:

What happens if the Mueller Investigation submits irrefutable evidence of criminal deeds committed by the Trump Administration and ranking members the GOP/RNC, and then the GOP Majority Leaders and their party simply choose to ignore their findings?

What legal options exist to hold criminals in power accountable for the crimes they have committed, when they hold the majority?

RichardPainter11 karma

The special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, has the power to bring indictments to prosecute crimes. He has already bought four such indictments and would be expected to bring further indictments against anyone who has committed a crime.

There is a constitutional question about whether the president could be prosecuted for a crime while he is in office, but that question would be resolved by the courts, not by the majority in congress. The House and Senate only have powers with respect to impeachment and removal of the president, not the question of whether the president has or has not committed a crime, which resides with prosecutors and courts.

smoothmedia6 karma

Do you think that Trump's legal defense will ultimately be that he didn't have the mental capacity to conspire with the Russians, and that he was merely used by nefarious actors who infiltrated his campaign?

RichardPainter14 karma

It remains to be seen what Trump's legal defenses are, and I would not want to conjecture on that. There are, however, serious concerns about his mental capacity.

marijuanaperson6 karma

What can we do to fight back against the TrumpCo Propaganda Machine?

RichardPainter17 karma

It's critically important for voters to get their facts from reputable news sources, not from politically slanted sources on the internet and television. Traditional newspapers and major networks, public radio and television, provide ample sources of accurate news. From there, people can go on to form opinions.

kevie3drinks6 karma

The 2016 elections showed how the Federal Elections Commission has pretty much no ability to crack down on actual campaign improprieties. Can you speak to why this is and what can be done to change it?

RichardPainter14 karma

Many of the most serious improprieties in 2016 involved espionage and computer hacking by the Russian government, and collaboration with the Russians by Americans pursuing the same objectives. Such conduct is well beyond the investigatory and enforcement capacity of the Federal Election Commission and properly addressed by the FBI, intelligence services, and law enforcement. Unfortunately, our defensive capacities in this respect were woefully deficient in 2016.

bigoted_bill5 karma

Mr. Painter I love you sir, thank you for your service Its great to see your Interviews, Please tell me, do you feel like there are a lot of conservatives serving in the house or senate that share your views but are to afraid to come out against Trump?

RichardPainter18 karma

Yes, I believe that many Republicans in the House and Senate are very concerned about President Trump but do not want to antagonize him for fear of retaliation.

dh42com5 karma

Are unprecedented things going on in the presidency, or is it just how the media is reporting on it?

RichardPainter16 karma

This presidency is unprecedented in a number of respects, including the extensive financial conflicts of interest of President Trump and his family.

There are many serious concerns, including: the President's attempts to interfere with freedom of the press, the President's threats to prosecute and jail his political opponents, and the extent to which high-ranking officials have engaged in obstruction of justice, among others.

hitchhiketoantarctic4 karma

Hey guys! Thanks for doing this!

Richard: did you EVER expect that once leaving public service that your experience with government ethics would become so relevant?

RichardPainter17 karma

I knew that experience with government ethics would always be relevant in public affairs but I never expected that we would have so many serious problems with government ethics at the highest levels over such a brief period of time (less than a year).

CaptainPeachfuzz2 karma

Is sending s cease and desist letter to the Fire and Fury publishers a form of censorship?

RichardPainter8 karma

No, this is a letter sent by private lawyers to the publishers. It had no basis in fact or law and was frivolous, but it is not an act of the government.

It is obviously worrisome that the President of the United States would ask his lawyers to send such a frivolous letter on his behalf, and worrisome that the President could seek to use his government powers to impose censorship, as he has indeed threatened to do with respect to the press.