President Donald Trump’s company has hired a longtime Republican lawyer and promoted one of its own attorneys as part of its plan to address the president’s potential conflicts of interest.
Bobby Burchfield, a partner in the Washington office of King & Spalding who represented George W. Bush in the 2000 Florida recount, will be independent ethics adviser. He’ll be responsible for signing off on transactions that could raise ethics or conflicts of interest concerns.
Burchfield also challenged the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law on behalf of the Republican National Committee and was general counsel to George H.W. Bush’s 1992 reelection campaign. Burchfield is chairman of Crossroads GPS, the secret-money Republican advocacy group started by Karl Rove.
In addition, George Sorial, a lawyer for the Trump Organization since 2007, will become chief compliance counsel. Sorial’s work for Trump included his for-profit education company, Trump University, that recently paid $25 million to settle fraud accusations. Sorial threatened to sue the Better Business Bureau over its C- rating, court records showed.
Ethics watchdogs, who criticized Trump’s ethics arrangement when it was announced on Jan. 11, slammed his choice of Burchfield on Tuesday.
“I don’t know what makes [Burchfield] qualified for that job, but in my experience he certainly does not have a track record for promoting ethical standards and rules,” said Fred Wertheimer of the watchdog group Democracy 21. “From what I know of his experience in this field, he does not fit the definition of an ethics adviser.”
The appointments are part of Trump’s plan to distance himself from his businesses and address concerns that he could use the presidency to enrich himself. But the selection of a GOP warrior and a Trump insider will disappoint ethics experts who insisted the advisers should be independent and widely respected. Outsiders had suggested 9/11 victims compensation fund administrator Kenneth Feinberg and former attorney general Michael Mukasey.
The Trump Organization didn’t immediately answer requests for comment.