White House Response Indicates That Scott Pruitt Will Probably Be Fired Soon
As a seemingly endless stream of scandals continues to surround Scott Pruitt, one of President Donald Trump's most favored Cabinet members, the White House sent a signal Wednesday that the EPA administrator may be the next official on the chopping block.
At the daily briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say whether the president still has confidence in Pruitt, even though Trump is happy with his deregulatory work. Sanders said the president is not okay with the recently revealed fact that Pruitt got a sweetheart deal on an apartment in Washington, D.C., paying only $50 a night to the wife of a fossil fuels lobbyist, well below the market rate.
As government ethics expert Kathleen Clark points out, this deal likely violates at least two federal ethics rules.
"We're currently reviewing that here at the White House," she said. "We take this seriously, and we're looking into it, and we'll let you know when we finish."
This must be an unsettling response for Pruitt to hear. The White House has no problem declaring media reports it doesn't like to be "fake news. If Sanders says the administration is looking into the matter, she probably means it.
We've been here before: former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign after Politico uncovered his excessive use of private jets on the taxpayer's dime. Ahead of Price's ouster, the White House also said it was "looking into" the issue. It also hurts Pruitt's standing that two Republican members of Congress have called for his resignation.
The apartment scandal is only one of Pruitt's problems. His office also used a loophole to give two of his staff members unapproved raises, though he denies any involvement. He has also been criticized for excessive spending, which the White House is reportedly reviewing.
The emerging picture of the EPA administrator is an unflattering one. His possible ouster over the coming weeks would hardly be a surprise. Pruitt's scandals are merely a deeper reflection of the corruption central to the Trump administration and the GOP more broadly. Pruitt was brought on because he was known to be excessively friendly to fossil fuel interests.
When he was first announced as Trump's pick for the EPA, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said the choice “satisfies virtually every definition of corruption of government" because of his extensive entanglement with industry.
Since the Republican Party's entire platform for the environment is based on catering to the interests of energy giants, it's predictable that Pruitt would be approved. But the Trump administration seems to realize that Pruitt's corruption—long apparent to anyone who cared to look—is no longer sustainable.
Watch a clip of the briefing below: