Trump’s Scandal-Hit EPA Chief Also Quits

Trump has overseen 38 high-profile departures in a blizzard of indecision and turmoil that would be hard for even the sharpest White House-watcher to recall
Donald Trump (L) and Scott Pruitt (File Photo)Donald Trump (L) and Scott Pruitt (File Photo)

US Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who had been lauded by Donald Trump for his aggressive efforts to roll back environmental regulations, resigned on Thursday under heavy fire for a series of ethics-related controversies.

Pruitt was one of Trump’s most polarizing cabinet members, slashing regulations on the energy and manufacturing industries, including a move to repeal former president Barack Obama’s signature program to cut carbon emissions from power plants, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, Reuters reported.

He was also instrumental last year in lobbying Trump to withdraw the United States from the global 2015 Paris climate accord to combat global warming.

But Pruitt lost favor with Trump’s inner circle after a string of controversies including first-class travel at taxpayer expense, lavish spending on security, the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office and accusations that he used his position to receive favors, such as a discounted rental on a high-end condo from an energy lobbyist’s wife.

The Trump presidency will be remembered for many things, but some of those who served it may prove tricky to recall. The former reality TV star has hired and fired staffers faster than he could ever jettison contestants on The Apprentice. High-profile appointees to august posts traditionally filled for years have struggled to stay for more than a couple of months—sometimes even days—before being fired or resigning.

By the Guardian’s count, Trump has overseen 38 high-profile departures in a blizzard of indecision and turmoil that would be hard for even the sharpest White House-watcher to recall.

  Under Fire

“The unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us,” Pruitt said in his resignation letter.

Trump announced the resignation on Twitter and said EPA deputy administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former mining industry lobbyist, will become the regulatory agency’s acting chief on Monday.

Wheeler is widely expected to continue Pruitt’s efforts to roll back and streamline regulation, something that Trump had promised in his presidential campaign.

“Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this,” Trump wrote. Trump told reporters later that Pruitt had approached him and offered to resign as opposed to being pushed out.

  Reign of Venality

Democrats and environmental advocacy groups cheered the departure of Pruitt, a close ally of the fossil fuel industry who has often questioned climate change science.

“Scott Pruitt’s reign of venality is finally over. He made swamp creatures blush with his shameless excesses. All tolerated because Trump liked his zealotry. Shame,” Democratic Representative Gerry Connolly said.

The Environmental Working Group, a public health and environment watchdog, called Pruitt “unquestionably the worst head of the agency in its 48-year history.”

  No Policy Change

Pruitt’s interim replacement, Wheeler, was formerly a lobbyist for Murray Energy, the country’s largest underground coal mining company, and also worked for Inhofe—a self-described climate skeptic—on efforts to combat climate legislation.

Matt Dempsey, an energy lobbyist at consultancy FTI, said Wheeler will be less controversial than Pruitt but without altering the agenda.

“He will be less political and more straightforward in his approach to the job, which is better for the Trump administration agenda in the long run. The politics will pass but the policy will remain,” Dempsey said.

Pruitt was facing around a dozen investigations into his tenure, including his frequent use of first-class flights and his spending on security—which the agency has defended as necessary to defend him against unprecedented threats.


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