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White House ethics lawyer leaving

Don McGahn leaving White House

Reporting by CBS News' Sara Cook 

White House ethics lawyer Stefan Passantino, the deputy White House counsel overseeing compliance and ethics issues, is leaving, a White House official confirms to CBS News.

For months, Passantino has been telling family and colleagues that he is looking for ways to best serve the president outside the White House, the official said. Two White House staffers who work with him are expected to handle many of the ethics and compliance matters he handled after he leaves. 

Passantino's job entailed offering ongoing ethics and legal compliance training and assistance for both onboarding and current executive office staffers. He helped staffers fill out required financial disclosure forms, among other functions. 

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. 

Last year, Democrats questioned Passantino's previous work for billionaire Carl Icahn, and for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, claiming there could be conflicts of interest. Icahn served in an informal advisory role until April of last year. Then-Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub pointed out that Passantino recused himself from work related to Carson and Price, but said the White House counsel should review the Icahn matter

Passantino's departure comes in the same week that Mr. Trump announced White House counsel Don McGahn will be leaving the White House in fall. Mr. Trump described McGahn's impending departure as "my decision" on Twitter Friday. 

But according to a White House official, the president was describing his decision to accept McGahn's resignation. 

"The president made the comment yesterday in the Roosevelt Room when he said that he had decided to accept McGahn's resignation," the official said. 

The Washington Post first reported Passantino would be leaving the White House this week. 

Top Republicans in Congress have described McGahn's departure is a loss for the White House and the nation. 

"If the reporting is true about Don McGahn's time at the White House coming to an end later this year, it will be sad news for our country," McConnell said in a statement. "Don is the most impressive White House Counsel during my time in Washington, and I've known them all. His departure from the White House, whenever that may be, would be a big loss for the Trump administration and the country. Don's significance to the judiciary, the White House and the nation cannot be overstated, and I look forward to his continued efforts on behalf of our country."

— CBS News' Kathryn Watson contributed to this report. 

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