Before Stefan C. Passantino began advising the White House on compliance and ethics issues as President Donald J. Trump’s deputy assistant and deputy counsel, he was a student at Emory University School of Law.
Passantino currently heads the president’s compliance team, which is charged with ensuring the executive branch complies with all ethics laws and rules. He graduated from Emory’s law school in 1991, and was managing editor of the Emory Law Journal from 1990 to 1991.
Passantino’s team is composed of former U.S. House Financial Services committee attorney Uttam Dhillon, Investigative Counsel for the Office of Congressional Ethics Scott Gast and former Cozen O’Connor Law Firm attorney James Schultz. Their task is made more complicated by the Trump Organization’s myriad worldwide business interests, run by Trump’s sons, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump.
Historically, past presidents have moved their financial holdings into a blind trust, which allows an independent manager to manage assets without the president’s knowledge. Despite being urged to do the same by ethics experts and elected officials, Trump has not.
A former partner and political law team chair at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, Passantino represented clients including politicians, interest groups and corporations. He specializes in elections law, pay-to-play compliance, ethics and lobbying laws.
Prior to joining Dentons, Passantino was a partner at the Atlanta- and D.C.-based Arnall Golden Gregory Law Firm and served as counsel to former Emory alumnus and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) (65C) and U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mich.).
Gingrich, who retained Passantino as his counsel for almost 20 years, said in a Jan. 25 White House statement that he has the “utmost confidence that [Passantino] will serve in the White House with professionalism and courage, standing firm for an administration that is above reproach.”
Passantino received bipartisan support, including backing from former Chair of the DNC and former Gov. of Vermont Howard Dean.
“[Passantino] will be clear about what the legal and ethical boundaries are in his advice to the White House,” Dean said in the same White House press release.
Passantino did not respond to multiple requests for comment.