Listen Live
St Jude banner

Source: JIM WATSON / Getty

Trump said there was ‘no final straw’ for Scott Pruitt and the resignation was ‘very much up to him.’


Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned Thursday, ending a tenure marked by allegations of misconduct that led to repeated calls for his ouster and embarrassed President Donald Trump.

Pruitt, a former Oklahoma state attorney general, was accused of spending extravagantly on travel and security, asking aides to run personal errands and accepting favorable terms for the rental of a condo owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist.

A government watchdog agency concluded earlier this year that the installation of a $43,000 soundproof telephone booth for Pruitt violated congressional appropriations law.

But Pruitt worked aggressively to roll back environmental regulations that Trump and his allies viewed as burdensome to businesses. That won him praise from the president, who stood by his embattled EPA chief for months.

“Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this,” Trump wrote on Twitter as he announced Pruitt’s resignation.

Trump said Pruitt’s deputy, Andrew Wheeler, would replace him.

In his resignation letter, Pruitt effusively praised Trump, saying he considered it “a blessing to be serving you in any capacity.” But Pruitt said the “unrelenting attacks” had taken a toll on him and his family.

Democrats hailed Pruitt’s departure, but still expressed concern about environmental stewardship under a Trump administration.

“Took you long enough,” tweeted Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., at Trump. “Still a very long way to go to fully #DrainTheSwamp.”

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., the ranking member on the House Energy Commerce Committee, said Pruitt’s resignation was “long overdue.”

“He repeatedly violated the law, abused his position to enrich himself, and wasted taxpayer money,” Pallone said. “Pruitt created a culture of corruption at EPA that has never been seen before in a federal agency, and for months President Trump idly stood by and allowed him to do further harm.”

Pruitt and his allies including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, claimed he was the target of a leftwing conspiracy to get rid of him because of his aggressive efforts to undo Obama-era rules. By shedding Pruitt, the president has lost his most ardent and effective deregulator.

In a follow-up tweet after Pruitt resigned, Trump said his new environmental administrator Wheeler “will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda.”

Later, speaking to reporters while traveling to Montana, Trump said there was “no final straw” for Pruitt and the resignation was “very much up to him.”

“I think Scott felt that he was a distraction,” Trump said.

Trump and his aides had expressed concern about Pruitt’s behavior — “bothersome,” one spokesman said this week — but had not publicly moved to dismiss him until Thursday, a day after Pruitt and other Cabinet members attended a July Fourth picnic at the White House.

Earlier in the year, Trump praised Pruitt in public and said he was being targeted by political enemies; but he has been much more reticent in recent weeks.

But the president’s endorsement didn’t stop some Republicans in Congress from joining the Pruitt-must-go chorus. About 170 Democrats on Capitol Hill had called for his ouster and several prominent Republicans said it might be time for a change. He’s currently facing more than a dozen federal investigations examining his conduct and ethics.

Pruitt’s departure sets up a potentially bruising confirmation battle in the Senate with whomever Trump nominates as the next EPA administrator.

Long list of ethical concerns

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who is unhappy with Pruitt’s moves to reduce ethanol consumption that is economically important to Midwestern states, recently called the EPA administrator “as swampy as you can get.”

Among the recent ethical challenges and criticisms:

Aides running errands

A top assistant to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt conducted personal errands for her boss last year, including booking personal flights, hunting for homes and inquiring about the availability of a used mattress from Trump International Hotel.

The errands performed by aide Millan Hupp were revealed as part of testimony she provided in May to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Huge raises for aides

As scrutiny mounted over his first-class flights, top aides received huge pay raises after the White House rejected them.

Pruitt paid $50 a night to rent a room on Capitol Hill in an apartment owned by health care lobbyist Vicki Hart, who is married to energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart. He used it beginning in February 2017 when he became EPA administrator and paid only on the nights he stayed until he moved out in July of that year.

EPA’s senior ethics official, Kevin Minoli, recently reviewed the lease — months after he had vacated the apartment — and deemed that the arrangement did not violate agency rules. That was not enough for the White House which launched its own investigation.

“We take this seriously and we’re looking into it,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday.

Pruitt went on Fox News that day to defend his conduct, unapologetically calling his arrangement similar to an”Airbnb situation” where lodgers only pay for the nights they stay, and countering the criticism that renting from a energy lobbyist is a potential conflict. He blamed the “toxicity” of Washington for contributing to the firestorm and said the criticism is “about the mission we’re engaged in here.”

But even the interview was apparently mishandled because Pruitt went on the air despite a report from the Washington Post that the White House asked him not do so, displaying no contrition for his actions.

Asking Trump to fire Sessions

CNN reported that Pruitt had asked that the president fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and instead appoint him to run the Justice Department, according to a report by CNN.

He made the request during an Oval Office meeting with Trump in spring, CNN reported, citing three anonymous sources. Advisers shot down the idea but Trump has floated the option as recently as April.

Their meeting and the request came amid multiple federal reviews of Pruitt and continued criticism of his ethics and policy.



Article Courtesy of USA Today and WKYC Channel 3 News Cleveland

First Picture Courtesy of BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI and Getty Images

Second Picture Courtesy of Jim Watson and Getty Images

First and Second Tweet Courtesy of Twitter, USA Today, and WKYC Channel 3 News Cleveland

Through the years with Luther Vandross [Photos]
Luther Vandross Live In Concert
28 photos