Politics

Trump Defends Pruitt Until the Very End

A look at the times when the president — and others — rallied behind the former EPA chief

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, here at a Senate hearing in May, is resigning after 16 months on the job. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Embattled EPA administrator Scott Pruitt turned in his resignation Thursday, but right until the very end, he could do no wrong in the eyes — or tweets — of President Donald Trump.

“Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this,” the president tweeted in his announcement that Pruitt was stepping down.

Trump later told reporters traveling with him to Montana that he was “extremely” satisfied with the outgoing EPA chief.

“We’ve gotten rid of record-breaking regulations,” he said.

Pruitt’s tenure at the EPA had been rocked in recent month by a series of controversies, including using aides for questionable purchases, excessive travel costs, salary raises for certain staffers, a dodgy lodging arrangement and the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office.

Over his sixteen-month tenure at the EPA, the former Oklahoma attorney general earned Trump’s public support on multiple occasions. 

The president came to Pruitt’s defense in April, shortly after Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse sent a letter to the EPA’s inspector general, accusing the administrator of using agency-funded security for personal trips.

Trump said Pruitt had received death threats “because of his bold actions at EPA,” emphasizing that “Scott is doing a great job!”

When rumors emerged that Trump would replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Pruitt, the commander in chief took to Twitter, saying the EPA administrator was “doing a great job” while being “TOTALLY under siege.”  

And it wasn’t just the president publicly expressing support for the scandal-prone chief. Several conservative leaders wrote a letter to Trump in April, praising Pruitt as “a bold, capable manager” and thanking the president for supporting him, Politico reported.

In April, Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul tweeted that Trump needed Pruitt to “drain the regulatory swamp” and praised the EPA head as the “bravest and most conservative member of Trump’s cabinet.”

GOP Sen. James M. Inhofe, Pruitt’s fellow Oklahoman, defended his longtime friend after a meeting last month. 

“There were probably things where he displayed questionable judgment,” Inhofe said, but he suggested that was largely because of Pruitt’s unfamiliarity with the level of attention in Washington. 

Not counting acting EPA heads, Pruitt departs as the second-shortest-serving administrator in history after a 503-day tenure. Only Mike Leavitt, who served under President George W. Bush, had a shorter run.

Niels Lesniewski and John T. Bennett contributed to this report. From the Archives: Lawmakers Take Different Approaches to Pruitt at Hearing

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