If President Trump is truly intent on building a wall with Mexico, perhaps he should construct it from all the allegations of ethics violations that piled up against his head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt. Because it’s a trainload.
Pruitt has stepped down now, but the sheer volume of claims against him was impressive even by DC standards. For months he was pelted with almost daily questions about his spending of tax dollars, his first-class travel, his security arrangements, and what critics called a sweetheart apartment lease from a lobbyist. A former aide told CNN Pruitt routinely had his schedule scrubbed to eliminate any record of controversial meetings. And if all that didn’t have ethics watchdogs howling loudly enough, the Washington Post says Pruitt even had a staffer asking around about a possible business deal for his wife with Chick-fil-A.
Of course, his resignation note said not a word about anything he might have done wrong. He praised the president effusively, then pawned off his ill fortune in a line: “…the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented.” It was an echo of Trump’s constant claims of media mistreatment, and why not? Throughout much of the turmoil, Trump stood by him saying “Scott Pruitt is doing a great job…he is being attacked very viciously by the press.”
In one way, Trump was correct. Pruitt ripped up much of the nation’s rulebook for environmental stewardship with ruthless efficiency, slashing regulations on everything from factory emissions to clean water. Trump thought many of those rules were hogwash anyway, and if he was willing to be the hatchet man, the White House was happy to let him hack away. And even as he headed for the exit, the president refused to give any credence to the critics.
But make no mistake: Pruitt is not out because of some imaginary media cabal. He wasn’t tanked by a conspiracy of White House foes or rabid tree-huggers. He’s packing his boxes because the number and weight of the ethics complaints against him was too heavy even for this White House to shrug off as fake news. And that’s saying something.