The Jolt: An Atlanta attorney departs the White House today

Atlanta attorney Stefan Passantino. AJC file

Atlanta attorney Stefan Passantino. AJC file

On Thursday, the Washington Post article generating the most attention was headlined "'Winter is coming': Allies fear Trump isn't prepared for gathering legal storm."

The gist was that many Republicans in Washington worry that the White House of President Donald Trump is woefully unprepared for the onslaught of investigations headed his way, should Democrats seize control of the U.S. House in November.

Four of five members of the White House legal team have left, most notably Donald McGahn, who has reportedly sat down for 30 hours of interviews with representatives of special counsel Robert Mueller.

But buried deep in the piece is the notation that one of the four departing lawyers is White House ethics specialist Stefan Passantino, a well-known Atlanta attorney. His last day is today. A paragraph from NBC News:

Passantino — who had been in charge of making sure White House officials complied with government ethics rules — had helped several White House officials deal with a number of ethics controversies, including a notorious March 2017 incident in which Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Donald Trump, plugged the clothing line of the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, on national television.

Passantino joined the White House staff in February 2017. One motivation for leaving might be found in this CBS News report:

Passantino has been traveling back to Georgia most weekends to see his family, including his three children, who stayed behind when he took the White House post, the official noted. Passantino was a partner at Dentons' political law practice before joining the Trump administration.

But the Post piece cited one more potential reason to hurry away:

Another concern is that the White House, which already has struggled in attracting top-caliber talent to staff positions, could face an exodus if Democrats take over the House, because aides fear their mere proximity to the president could place them in legal limbo and possibly result in hefty lawyers' fees.

"It stops good people from potentially serving because nobody wants to inherit a $400,000 legal bill," said another Trump adviser.


The body of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will lie in repose in the U.S. Capitol today, one day ahead of a memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral, where eulogizers will include former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. President Trump will be on the road again today, headed to Charlotte, N.C., to raise money for two GOP congressional candidates,

McCain's colleagues have been offering their reminisces of McCain. We told you of Johnny Isakson's speech on Monday. On Thursday, his Georgia colleague, David Perdue, put out a video that you can see here:

Perdue’s first encounter with McCain was in 2014, when he was still a GOP candidate, and McCain had agreed to come down to speak to a gathering of veterans. From Perdue:

"I'm waiting for John to come to the podium. John's in the back of the room, all the TV cameras are there, he's answering questions. He looks up, he sees the guy on my left is sitting by himself. He leaves the cameras. Now, if you know John, that's a big statement.

"John walked all the way across that auditorium, came up with tears in his eyes, and hugged this man that I had not been introduced to yet. It turns out, that was a retired Air Force pilot who served time in the Hanoi Hilton and for a time was in the cell next to John McCain.... It was an emotional moment for everybody in the auditorium. I'll never forget it."


Speaking of David Perdue. In the letters-to-the-editor section of the Augusta Chronicle on Monday from retired Major Gen. Arnold Punaro. The retired Marine heaped fulsome praise on Georgia's junior senator for his effort in the passage of a defense bill. A taste:

"Since taking office, Sen. Perdue has helped lead the much-needed fight to fully support our war fighters and reform the military."

Why is that significant? Punaro was a top aide to U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn. And in 2014, he was a major supporter of Michelle Nunn, the former senator’s daughter and Perdue’s Democratic opponent for the open seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss.


WSB Radio's Jamie Dupree reported Thursday that President Trump has cancelled a planned 2.1 percent pay increase for civilian federal workers in 2019.

The move could have a massive impact on Georgia, which is home to nearly 72,000 full-time civilian federal employees (making it the sixth-largest in the country).

The president said the move was needed to help balance out rising federal deficits.

Democrats quickly took to Twitter to denounce the actions and point out that Trump spearheaded many recent deficit-busting initiatives, including the $1.5 trillion tax bill, a $300 billion budget deal and trade fights that spurred a recent farm aid package from Sonny Perdue's Agriculture Department totaling billions of dollars.

Congress can override Trump's pay freeze in its upcoming government spending bill, but it's not crazy to think that lawmakers will be a little distracted with a broader shutdown showdown over the president's border wall.


More than one month after his defeat in a GOP primary runoff for governor, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle on Thursday sent out a thank-you note to supporters that contained no hint of what he'll be doing next -- only that he would "continue to "fight for the issues that brought you to support my campaign."

Without mentioning Brian Kemp, who defeated him in the July runoff, he added: “To achieve our shared vision for Georgia’s future, we must now focus our attention on electing strong conservatives in November.”


Cameron McWhirter of the Wall Street Journal has a piece on the Beltline and gentrification in Atlanta that begins like this:

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently delivered an odd message for a leader of a city whose name has become synonymous with growth.

"I told them, 'If you live on the Westside of Atlanta, do not sell your property right now,' " she said in an interview.

Ms. Bottoms's advice was aimed at working-class homeowners in a predominantly African-American area that she said is gentrifying so quickly people are getting shortchanged for their property.


Count former state GOP chairman Bob Shaw among those who don't want to see the name of Richard B. Russell, a Democrat, erased from that Senate office building in Washington. Those pushing to rename the building after the late John McCain point out that Russell was an arch-segregationist and longtime foe of the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s. Supporters don't dispute that, but off-setting accomplishments in the field of national security and the like.

On Thursday, a friend forwarded a note from Shaw, who remembered that Georgia Republicans, a relatively small club at the time, were gathered at Callaway Gardens for a January gala:

But upon arriving at the Gardens in 1971, we learned of the death of Georgia's beloved Sen. Dick Russell. There is no way we were going forward with our celebration with the loss of this great Georgian and one of the greatest senators in Washington. We made arrangements to have our beautiful floral flag transported to the Georgia state Capitol where the body of Senator Russell was to lie in state, with our flag directly behind his casket.

It was our pleasure to honor this great man in 1971 and we would be totally opposed to the removal of his name from the Richard B. Russell Senate Office Building at this time.


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