Fresh Ethics Allegations Reignite Push to Oust EPA’s Scott Pruitt
A new report claiming the industry-friendly agency head got a below-market deal on a condo from a lobbyist is adding fuel to a push for him to step down.
Environment Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faced mounting pressure to resign on Sunday, amid new reports of alleged ethical violations.
The embattled Pruitt, who has come under fire for his lavish travel expenses on the federal government’s dime, is taking heat from lawmakers and some allies of President Donald Trump after it was reported that he rented space in a Washington, D.C. property owned by the wife of an energy industry lobbyist.
“If Mr. Pruitt’s going to go, it’s because he never should have been there in the first place,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump ally, said on ABC’s This Week. “Listen, I don’t know how you survive this one.”
The EPA, through a spokesman, has dismissed suggestions that Pruitt’s condo arrangement represented an illegal gift even though Pruitt paid below the market value. The lobbyist, J. Steven Hart, was doing business with clients involving the EPA, and the Hart family financially backed Pruitt when he was a political candidate.
But on Capitol Hill, some have already called on Pruitt to step down or be fired, citing a string of alleged ethical violations since assuming office last year.
“I think he’s in real trouble. I think that there is a perception is not good at all. The fact that he has a controversy with expenses, which I think is one of the things that people are just frustrated with, with cabinet members who seem to want to use taxpayer dollars to fund a life, their own personal lifestyle,” Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) said on This Week. “It just looks so bad. And I think it seems that he may be on his way out.”
Pruitt has also drawn the ire of congressional Republicans. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, had requested that the EPA hand over documents relating to Pruitt’s travel expenses. The agency blew past the deadline, March 6, to submit those documents.
CNN reported on Friday that White House officials were “exasperated” with Pruitt and weren’t preparing just yet to publicly come to his defense. The Trump administration has dealt with similar controversies involving a handful of other cabinet secretaries over the past 14 months, including ousted Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who resigned in September.
Christie, who briefly chaired the president’s transition team before he assumed office last January, said the vetting process for prospective nominees during the transition period was “brutally unprofessional.”
He was critical of Trump’s other choices for top positions in the administration, including the selection of Michael Flynn for national security adviser. Flynn has since been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and has pleaded guilty.