EPA's Pruitt May Need to Resign, Key Republican Ally Says
(Bloomberg) -- Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt may need to resign amid reports that he used an aide to help look for a job for his wife and leased an inexpensive condo from an energy lobbyist’s wife, said Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, a longtime friend of Pruitt.
“I think something needs to happen to change that, and one of those alternatives is for him to leave that job,” Inhofe told conservative political commentator Laura Ingraham Wednesday on her syndicated radio show.
Inhofe and Pruitt both are from Oklahoma, and a number of Inhofe’s former aides work in top EPA jobs. His comments add to growing complaints about Pruitt from some conservatives as well as Democrats.
News organizations have unearthed evidence of Pruitt enlisting aides on multiple occasions to try to help line up work for his wife, Marlyn Pruitt. That included contacting the chief executive of Chick-fil-A Inc. in pursuit of a franchise and, according to a Washington Post report Wednesday, contacting donors who might offer her a job. Pruitt also has drawn scrutiny for his use of first-class air travel, a $50-a-day condo rental in Washington and round-the-clock security detail.
President Donald Trump expressed support for Pruitt last Friday, telling reporters the administrator was “doing a great job within the walls of the EPA” while “being attacked very viciously by the press.” But the president also said Pruitt isn’t “blameless” for his many ethics controversies.
Ingraham, who also has a weeknight television show on Fox News Channel, wrote on Twitter earlier Wednesday, "PRUITT BAD JUDGMENT HURTING @POTUS. GOTTA GO."
Inhofe -- who said he’s a longtime friend of Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general -- said on Ingraham’s program that he agreed with her criticism of Pruitt “100 percent.”
“He is capable of doing the job, but he needs to do the job and quit worrying about all these other things,” said Inhofe, former chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “I’m sending a communication over today that we’ve had enough of these things and you need to get down and do the job we’re elected to do.”
Inhofe spokeswoman Leacy Burke said in an email that the senator is not calling for Pruitt to resign. “He has concerns about the reports and wants to hear about them from the administrator,” Burke said.
If Pruitt left, his immediate replacement could be Andrew Wheeler, now serving in the No. 2 spot at the EPA after years of lobbying on behalf of coal producer Murray Energy Corp. and other energy companies. Wheeler also worked for Inhofe as a top aide, and he served as a Republican staff member for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
After suggesting that Pruitt might have to quit, Inhofe said, “Andrew Wheeler is really good, too, and that might be a good swap.”
Conservative groups have begun targeting Pruitt. The Iowa-based American Future Fund has produced an ad calling Pruitt a “swamp monster” and calling for his ouster “for the good of the country.”
The National Review joined the chorus late Wednesday, saying in an editorial that the continued reports of “bizarre or venal” behavior make it impossible for the administrator to make the case for Trump’s environmental policies. “Pruitt is replaceable,” the magazine’s editors wrote. “He should be replaced.”
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.