Former Bush ethics lawyer: Trump needs to divest from his business and focus on being president

Painter: We don't need the president moonlighting

President-elect Donald Trump must give up his business interests unless he is prepared to face a barrage of accusations and potential lawsuits, Richard Painter, a former chief White House ethics lawyer, told CNBC on Friday.

Painter said on "Squawk on the Street" that Trump needs to divest all of his business interests so he does not have conflicts of interest and he does not have the risk of foreign government money getting into his pocket, which would violate the Constitution of the United States, [so] he doesn't get wrapped up in a bribery investigation."

The former ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush said that while the move is not required by law, it would save Trump the time and effort of dealing with malicious litigators searching for an opportunity to sue his business and let Trump focus on being president.

If Trump chose not to divest, which seems like his likely move, the effort to cleanse his business of any conflicts of interest would be long and toilsome, Painter said.

"It is possible to try to clean out all of the foreign government money, but you're going to have to tell foreign governments that the diplomats can't stay at [Trump's] hotels at government expense. You're going to have to refinance the Bank of China loans. You're going to have to get his name off of buildings in high-risk locations," Painter said.

The only way to avoid this onslaught of changes would be to sell off the business, and while Trump's assets may not be prime selling material, he said he believed the president-elect could make it work.

"I don't think anybody's ever taken advantage of Donald Trump," Painter said. "He can find a buyer."