Why does Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt still have his job despite more than a dozen ongoing ethics investigations?
Two key reasons. First, not only does the President like the job he’s doing, Trump and Pruitt have apparently bonded over their mutual dislike of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the New York Times reported Sunday.
Second, the GOP-led Congress has utterly failed in its oversight of the EPA and Pruitt. Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute told E&E News, “I’m sure there has never been a Cabinet officer subject to two or three investigations and we have, what, 13 and counting?”
But Congress is simply unwilling or unable to act. Ornstein added: “I’m just stunned by the lack of morality in Congress.“
The Times piece describes a White House in chaos, with an emboldened President Trump increasingly surrounded by yes-men: “He has grown comfortable with removing any barriers that might challenge him — including, in some cases, people who have the wrong chemistry or too frequently say no to him.”
Pruitt is one of Trump’s remaining “confidants,” the paper explains: “the two speak frequently, and the president enjoys discussing his negative view of Jeff Sessions.”
Back in January, Politico reported that Pruitt “has told friends and associates that he’s interested in becoming attorney general.” By April, Trump was even tweeting about it: “Do you believe that the Fake News Media is pushing hard on a story that I am going to replace A.G. Jeff Sessions with EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, who is doing a great job but is TOTALLY under siege?”
While it’s clear that Trump greatly prefers Pruitt to Sessions, Pruitt’s growing list of ethics scandals — the Times tallies over a dozen active investigations into the EPA chief — makes it all but impossible to imagine him getting Senate confirmation.
Indeed, the seeming daily revelation of EPA scandals has even worn down the President — slightly. “Well, Scott Pruitt is doing a great job within the walls of the EPA,” Trump told reporters Friday. “I mean, we’re setting records. Outside, he’s being attacked very viciously by the press. I’m not saying that he’s blameless, but we’ll see what happens.”
Of course, the real ethics scandal at the EPA is Pruitt’s immoral policies to poison our air and water. Sadly, those are all but certain to continue under Trump no matter who runs the agency.