“So. Ask me any questions you want!” said Richard Painter, the U corporate law professor and network TV political pundit who’s all over the flat screen.

I already liked this sarcastic, delightfully truculent, fearless troublemaker based on his appearances on MSNBC, CNN, etc. Now I loved the guy.

I caught up Monday with the reasonable Republican who was the chief ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush after his appearance with the Theater of Public Policy at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. It’s an unlikely, highly entertaining mélange of policy and improv anchored by Tane Danger. I told Painter that he didn’t respond months ago to my attempt to arrange an interview via Twitter. “Oh, I don’t respond to tweets,” he said. “Send an e-mail!”

Earlier this year Painter filed suit against Donald Trump because the president hasn’t divorced himself from his business empire and there is suspicion that he is violating the “emoluments clause” of the Constitution that precludes presidents from receiving money and gifts from foreign governments or entities controlled by foreign governments.

“We have a hearing coming up later this month,” he said “We’re going to see what the judge wants to do.” Here is Part 1 of our interview:

 

Q: How long have you been a troublemaker?

A: I’ve been a troublemaker my whole life. Yep.

 

Q: Is this the most unusual setting in which you have given a talk?

A: This is unusual, but I have had a lot of unusual settings in my life. Including the White House Ethics Lecture. I always wondered how many of them were listening.

Q: Because of the atrocity in Vegas, I wonder if you have any idea when would be a good time to talk gun control?

A: We should have been talking about gun control long ago. We have a serious problem with guns and I am amazed that Republicans are not taking this more seriously. I always thought we were the party of law and order. Part of law and order means having some control over who has guns and where. You don’t want criminals having guns. That doesn’t mean we have to give up our guns. That means we have to have rules for guns just like we do for automobiles and other things that can cause danger to the public.

 

Q: Is the day ever going to come when Trump acknowledges that white men born in the USA are a greater terrorist threat than Muslims or foreigners?

A: There are a lot of terrorist threats out there, whether they come from overseas or right here in the United States. The vast majority of people out there are good people who love our country. The vast majority of Muslims are good people, too. It’s about time we stopped differentiating between religions and races and focus on the fact that there are some people who are a threat to civilized society and we need to protect ourselves from those people.

 

Q: Based on what you’ve said on MSNBC, you think Trump is either the worst president in your lifetime or the worst ever?

A: Well, I don’t know about ever. We’ve had some pretty lame presidents. We’ve had enough presidents who because of their own financial conflicts of interest failed to deal with the slavery issue, which caused serious tragedies for our country — the Civil War and the aftermath. But I’ve got to say, in many respects, what we see going on right now in Washington is a low point. I’m very disappointed.

 

Q: Did you ever think you’d live to see an enormous group of white nationalists marching with tiki torches and disparaging Jews in public?

A: No. I wasn’t alive back in 1933 when that was going on in Germany. I thought we fought World War II against those types of people. We’ve always had trouble with the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis and these far right groups, but to have the president of the United States fail to denounce racism is a great embarrassment.

 

Q: Who’s responsible for you not growing up to be a racist?

A: I think racist is fundamentally contrary to the word of God. A Christian or a person of any faith, Muslim, Jewish or a humanist, no one of any integrity should be a racist. I don’t condone racism or fail to stand up to it and certainly not in the United States.

 

C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.