Richard Painter is the Vice Chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left-wing activist group.

In December 2016, Painter replaced in the position of Vice Chair … wait for it … David Brock. Yes, that David Brock, the consummate Democratic oppo-research attack dog, leader of Media Matters, and now American Bridge. That David Brock was Vice Chair of CREW tells you everything you need to know about the group.

But you will almost never hear this part of Painter’s resume when he appears on TV, which he does quite often. You might hear that he’s a professor at U. Minnesota Law School. But most of all, you will hear that he is a former George W. Bush administration Chief Ethics Lawyer (2005-2007).

But in the age of Trump, his entree to TV commentary has been relentless Trump bashing — there is nothing the media loves more than someone who served in an Republican administration but now attacks Trump.

And Painter’s main TV role is to attack Trump in outlandish terms. I never heard of Painer — and I bet you never did either — until he started fulfilling the TV role of attacking Trump.

Painter called on Electors not to vote for Trump when the Electoral College met because of the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution due to Trump’s ownership of hotels in which foreign government officials stay:

Painter’s view of the Emoluments Clause application is, at best, simplistic and questionable, but he acts as if it’s open and shut.

Painter also called for Jeff Sessions to resign:

Painter has said he’s worried about “KGB agents running around the West Wing” in the White House and National Security Council:

One of Painter’s themes is to toss in the word “treason,” as in this MSNBC appearance in March 2017:

And again in April:

That accusation of treason was made again last night, after the NY Times published a report that Donald Trump, Jr. and others met with a Russian lawyer who arranged the meeting on the promise of having damaging information about Hillary Clinton.  There never was any indication that there was a suggestion of illegally obtained or hacked information, or that the Trump team suggested such. Rather, it was an offer of opposition research at worst of the type CREW’s David Brock is notorious for offering up on Republicans.

Yet Painter said it was treason to have that meeting in a tweet.

And of course, because if is a former Bush Administration ethics lawyer, he quickly appeared on TV to repeat the accusation. First he appeared on MSNBC:

“This was an effort to get opposition research on an opponent in an American political campaign from the Russians, who were known to be engaged in spying inside the United States. We do not get our opposition research from spies, we do not collaborate with Russian spies, unless we want to be accused of treason.  . . .  If this story is true, we’d have one of them if not both of them in custody by now, and we’d be asking them a lot of questions. This is unacceptable. This borders on treason, if it is not itself treason.”

Then on CNN:

And the accusation is dominating headlines:

But, as is becoming common, Prof. Jonathan Turley is the voice of reason, and completely debunks Painter’s claim:

Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush, has declared that the meeting of Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have compromising information on Hillary Clinton  Hillary Clinton during the campaign,  “borders on treason.”  Others have said that the disclosure could be the long sought after “smoking gun” on collusion and evidence of criminal conduct.  I am afraid that I have to continue my record as something of a “buzz kill” on these stories.  There is not a clear criminal act in such a meeting based on the information that we have.  Moreover, it is not necessarily unprecedented….

There is no crime in listening to people who say that they have incriminating information on a political opponent, even a foreigner.  Article III defines treason as “levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”  To say that this type of meeting even borders on treason is quite a departure from the language and cases governing that crime.

Moreover, it is hardly shocking to see a willingness to gather dirt during that election.  Hillary Clinton was repeatedly criticized for her close association with figures like David Brock who was denounced even by John Podesta as sleazy and disreputable.   There was also Sidney Blumenthal who was regularly denounced for spreading rumors and dirt against anyone threatening Clinton.

There also is the allegations surrounding who funded a former British spy to come up with the dossier against Trump, which is now viewed as discredited.

Add to that analysis the fact that the Times says the meeting was on June 9, but by all accounts the first reports of Russian hacking were disclosed a week after that. So Painter’s entire premise, that the Trump team must have known any information offered was the result of spying, doesn’t hold up.

Painter’s repeated accusations of treason, as well as his earlier outlandish positions, demonstrate that if cable news is going to put him on, he should be identified with his present position with a left-wing anti-Trump, anti-Republican activist organization.

That’s a lot more relevant to his commentary than his decade-ago service in the Bush administration.


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