Bush ethics chair perfectly schools right-wing attorney general on ethics and law: 'Wrong! That's just wrong!'
Richard Painter and Ken Cuccinelli (Photo: Screen captures)

A normally calm Richard Painter lost his temper with far-right Virginia gubernatorial candidate and former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli.


A conversation about Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusal and the appropriate thing to do went completely off the rails Friday. Painter began by saying that the knowledge that three White House staffers pressured Sessions not to recuse himself is an example of obstruction. Whether that reaches criminality is for special counsel Robert Mueller to decide.

Cuccinelli tried to make the argument that the recusal was far too broad and that the White House reacted within reason in their anger at Sessions. That's when Painter let Cuccinelli have it.

"That's just wrong!" he exclaimed, talking over Cuccinelli. "That's just wrong! The ethics rules for lawyers, think about it."

Cuccinelli continued claiming the recusal went far beyond where it should. Painter shouted out "wrong," cutting Cuccinelli off again.

"That's just wrong!" Painter repeated. "That is wrong. That is not the reading of the regulation and the ethics rules for lawyers. Rule 1.7 for lawyers on conflicts of interest. He cannot investigate a campaign in which he was a material part of that campaign. He cannot do it under the ethics rules for lawyers or under the ethics regulations. Open and shut. He could not participate in or supervise that investigation."

Cuccinelli tried to argue that because this investigation is about a foreign power intruding in an election that it falls under a "counter-intelligence investigation," and not under a criminal or civil charge.

Painter called BS, saying it was absolutely criminal, but Cuccinelli continued to push that Sessions went beyond the scope of the regulation.

"As he was required to do," Painter said.

Host Anderson Cooper reported that President Donald Trump believes that the attorney general should represent him and not the United States. But Cuccinelli turned personal claiming that the comment was a "belief" Cooper has held for a long time. The recent New York Times interview revealed that Trump felt former attorney general Eric Holder "totally protected" former President Barack Obama.

Painter maintained it was incredibly inappropriate to have people pressuring Sessions, going further to say it was "wrong."

"There's not a single authority out there that is reputable that I have heard say that Attorney General Sessions was not required to recuse himself from the investigation when he worked for the campaign," Painter said. "He was required to under the lawyer's ethics rules and the government ethics rules. It is an open and shut case."

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