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Even Scott Pruitt’s top Senate ally has had enough of his scandals

Replacing Scott Pruitt with EPA's deputy administrator could be a good swap, Sen. Inhofe says.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt appears to have lost the support of his good friend, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). CREDIT: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt appears to have lost the support of his good friend, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). CREDIT: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The scandals surrounding Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt reflect badly on President Trump and may have reached a point where Pruitt needs to leave his job, according to Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), one of Pruitt’s top supporters in the Senate.

In a Wednesday interview on right-wing pundit Laura Ingraham’s radio show, Inhofe said all of the scandals are upsetting him and that something needs to change at the EPA. “One of those alternatives would be for him to leave that job,” the Oklahoma senator said.

Pruitt’s EPA is home to many former Inhofe staffers, including Andrew Wheeler, the agency’s deputy administrator. In response to Ingraham pressing him on whether Pruitt should stay in his job, Inhofe said: “There’s a guy behind him, Andrew Wheeler, whose really qualified. That might be a good swap.”

Wheeler spent 14 years as a staffer for Inhofe, including as chief counsel for the senator on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. In February 2015, Inhofe, one of the most anti-environment senators in Washington, created a stir when he appeared with a snowball on the Senate floor, purportedly to demonstrate that climate change is a hoax.

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After leaving Capitol Hill, Wheeler worked as an energy industry lobbyist. Over an eight-year period, Wheeler earned more than $3 million lobbying for Murray Energy.

In the radio interview, Inhofe said he’s sending communications to the EPA that say, “We’ve had enough of these things,” referring to Pruitt’s multitude of scandals, including sending his staffers to buy him a used Trump hotel mattress and asking his subordinates to help his wife find a job with a conservative organization.

Ingraham stated she has “talked to top conservatives” about Pruitt and they believe his antics are hurting Trump’s reputation. Politico reported Wednesday that Ingraham dined with with Donald Trump Jr. at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Tuesday evening.

“If you want to drain the swamp, you’ve got to have people in it who forego personal benefits and don’t send your aides around doing personal errands on the taxpayer dime,” she said on the show. “Otherwise, you make everybody else look bad.”

Later in the day, on social media, Ingraham called for Pruitt to leave his position at the EPA. She tweeted: “PRUITT BAD JUDGMENT HURTING @POTUS, GOTTA GO.”

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As the list of Pruitt scandals grew over the past several months, there was speculation that Inhofe — who described Pruitt as “a good friend of mine” on Ingraham’s radio show — was losing patience in the EPA administrator.

Back in April, Inhofe told the New York Times that he was troubled by allegations of unchecked spending and ethics questions during Pruitt’s career as attorney general and state senator in Oklahoma. “I’ve known him since he was in the state legislature and supported him,” Inhofe said in the interview. “These are accusations I did not know anything about.”