Scott Pruitt Resigns As Head Of Environmental Protection Agency : NPR

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was among the most controversial of President Trump’s original Cabinet-level picks.

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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt was among the most controversial of President Trump’s original Cabinet-level picks.

Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Updated at 6:01 p.m. ET

Scott Pruitt will no longer lead the Environmental Protection Agency, President Trump announced Thursday afternoon via Twitter.

“I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt,” Trump tweeted. “Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this,” Trump also wrote.

The president also said that on Monday, Andrew Wheeler will “assume duties as the acting Administrator of the EPA.”

“I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!” Trump said.

In his resignation letter, obtained by NPR, Pruitt informed Trump he was leaving his post “effective as of July 6.” Pruitt also wrote, “The unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”

Pruitt was among the most controversial of Trump’s original Cabinet-level picks. He embodied the administration’s broad support for the fossil fuel industry and its disdain for climate science. Since then, he has attracted the attention of Congress and the EPA’s inspector general for a wide range of potential ethics violations that hinged on misusing his power and spending far more taxpayer money than his predecessors had on travel and security expenses.

As investigations piled up, multiple close aides and EPA staffers resigned from the agency, and support among congressional Republicans slowly weakened.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday, Trump said Pruitt “came to me and said, he said, ‘I have such great confidence in the administration. I don’t want to be a distraction.’ And I think Scott felt that he was a distraction.”

The president added that the choice to resign was Pruitt’s.

Pruitt came to the EPA from Oklahoma, where he spent years as the state’s attorney general attacking the federal agency he would eventually run. With other Republican attorneys general, he sued the EPA to stop ozone and methane emissions rules and block regulations on coal-fired power plants.

Throughout his career, he has publicly questioned climate change and whether it is caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

The man taking the reins of the EPA, Deputy Administrator Wheeler, is a former coal lobbyist and senior Senate staffer.

Ethics questions and investigations

While Pruitt’s environmental policies were controversial, it was his spending and attempts to use the position for personal gain that resulted in more than a dozen investigations.

Several patterns were quickly established, including unusually high spending on his office and travel and continually mixing his personal and professional lives.

The EPA spent about $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth for the administrator’s office, and The Washington Post reported that Pruitt spent thousands of dollars on first-class plane tickets. The New York Times reported that Pruitt’s chief of security proposed that Pruitt spend $70,000 on two desks, one of them bulletproof. The desks were not purchased.

Pruitt cited security threats as one reason for the first-class travel, and he spent tens of thousands of dollars on a publicly funded, 24-hour security detail, which his office said was necessary to protect him. Pruitt’s security detail reportedly accompanied him on personal trips, including a family vacation to Disneyland. In August 2017, the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General began investigating Pruitt’s travel and security expenses and has widened the investigation multiple times.

Pruitt aides also sought to protect their boss from questions and to help his wife pursue business deals, according to New York Times and Washington Post analyses of thousands of internal emails released to the Sierra Club under the Freedom of Information Act.

According to CNN, Pruitt broke with a tradition set by past EPA administrators and kept a secret, nonpublic calendar to hide meetings with industry representatives and controversial figures. Just minutes before Trump’s tweet announcing Pruitt’s resignation, the Times reported that a Pruitt staffer had been fired after questioning the deletions from the public schedule. At public appearances, EPA staff often told reporters and citizens that the administrator would only answer pre-planned questions, the Times reported.

Chick-fil-A, industry lobbyists

In May 2017, a scheduler for Pruitt reached out to the chief executive of the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A about setting up a meeting to discuss a “potential business opportunity,” the Post reported. Another EPA official reached out on Pruitt’s behalf to conservative political groups to ask about potential job opportunities for Pruitt’s wife, Marlyn Pruitt, who eventually landed a temporary position as an independent contractor for a conservative advocacy group.

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