“The EPA administrator’s departure Thursday caps a remarkable run of scandals.”
From The Atlantic:
By the beginning of July, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was embroiled in so many scandals that even his critics were beginning to wonder if he was invincible.
He was not. On Thursday afternoon, President Trump announced on Twitter that he accepted Pruitt’s resignation, ending a tumultuous, troubled tenure atop the agency. The abrupt departure came after months of Trump defending Pruitt, despite many White House aides concluding that Pruitt was a distraction and needed to go, and despite increasingly vocal criticism among Republican members of Congress and even pro-Trump pundits like Laura Ingraham. The mystery is what finally pushed Trump to oust him.
But this week has seen a deluge of damaging stories, notable even by the elevated standards of Pruitt’s administration. The Washington Post reported that Pruitt had sought a $200,000 per annum job for his wife, Marlyn, at the Republican Attorneys General Association, asking an aide to make calls on her behalf—a potential violation of ethics law. He also asked aides to put hotel rooms and other expenses on personal credit cards, rather than his own, the Post reported. CNN reported that Pruitt had pleaded with Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then install Pruitt as temporary attorney general. Politico revealed that Pruitt had installed a former political crony as the head of the office dealing with public-information requests at EPA.
Yet perhaps the most damaging stories involved alleged alterations to Pruitt’s official schedules and records. CNN reported Tuesday that Pruitt’s aides kept two sets of agendas, one public and one private, and often scrubbed politically toxic meetings from public records. For example, the EPA omitted a meeting that Pruitt held in Rome with Cardinal George Pell, a prominent climate-change denier who was recently charged with sexual abuse. On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Pruitt had fired an aide after she refused to alter schedules. The schedule alterations could constitute violations of federal laws against falsifying or hiding public records.
That seems to have been one scandal too many for Pruitt. The Times’ Maggie Haberman reports that Trump had grown frustrated in recent weeks with the endless stream of scandals emanating from EPA. However, the administrator appeared jolly at a July 4th event at the White House just one day before his departure.
By the time of his ouster, there were at least a dozen federal inquiries into Pruitt’s behavior. Until then, Pruitt had weathered a series of stories likely unparalleled in recent Cabinet history, because any other Cabinet member subject to as many damaging stories as him would likely have resigned or been pushed out long ago. In this way, Pruitt resembles the president, who has also withstood a remarkable number of damaging revelations.