I’m going to miss the daily “petty Scott Pruitt scandal” story, a reliable source of grim swampy amusement. They were being published practically up to the moment Trump made the announcement on Twitter today that he was out. Here’s the latest one from the Times, dated this afternoon, noting that an EPA aide was mysteriously fired after wondering why meetings involving Pruitt had been retroactively deleted from his schedule when federal law prevents that sort of thing.
It was quite a show. But as POTUS knows, all shows eventually end.
The guy is facing 14 separate federal investigations at this point, with some aides having already testified before the House Oversight Committee and more set to appear. The final straw may have been this CNN report posted on Tuesday about Pruitt allegedly lobbying Trump to fire Sessions and install him at the DOJ instead. It’s been rumored for months that POTUS might do something like that, since cabinet members can lateral (temporarily) from one agency to another under the Vacancies Reform Act and Pruitt, a Trump loyalist, would obviously ride herd on Mueller for him. There were also rumors that the idea of replacing Sessions with Pruitt had come from Team Pruitt itself, but not until CNN’s story appeared was that substantiated:
Embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt directly appealed to President Donald Trump this spring to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and let him run the Department of Justice instead, according to three people familiar with the proposal. In an Oval Office conversation with Trump, Pruitt offered to temporarily replace Sessions for 210 days under the Vacancies Reform Act, telling the President he would return to Oklahoma afterward to run for office…
Advisers quickly shot down the proposal, but it came at a time when Trump’s frustration with Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation had resurfaced. Trump has complained loudly and publicly about the recusal for the last 14 months, and floated replacing Sessions with Pruitt as recently as April.
It’s one thing to have an endless ethics headache at the top of the EPA, it’s another to have him openly gunning to be in charge of the Justice Department and for the public to know that. Trump spokesman Hogan Gidley called the drumbeat of Pruitt stories “troublesome” on Tuesday after the CNN story came out, suggesting that the end was near. But not near enough, apparently:
Pruitt still showed up at White House July 4 festivities yesterday. https://t.co/SRruxkxKYQ
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 5, 2018
The guy has chutzpah, give him that. Even some Trump loyalists had begun to tire of the daily nonsense, knowing that Democrats would (and likely still will) make hay of Pruitt in November as evidence that Trump has only made the swamp swampier:
Pruitt is the swamp. Drain it.
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) July 3, 2018
Just this morning CNN followed up by quoting a senior administration official as saying Pruitt was “inching forward to the tipping point.” In spite of everything, and although admitting to being unhappy with the negative Pruitt news, Trump continued to defend his deregulatory work at the EPA. There’s some merit to that, but Pruitt’s efforts were also overhyped and his continued employment presented an obvious perception problem: Can it really be that there’s no one else in the Republican Party capable of pursuing environmental deregulation as doggedly as Pruitt while sparing the president from a literal scandal du jour?
The closest thing I’ve found to a comprehensive account of ethical lapses in the Pruitt era is this list by Axios. Choose your own favorite; mine is him ordering his staff to drive him around so that he could find a particular type of moisturizer he’s into, although I’m also partial to the one involving $1,500 “tactical pants.” What is and probably will forever remain inexplicable is why a guy who’s all of 50 years old and had impressed the president with his work at EPA would blow his chance at bigger and better things by mucking around with ethical violations. He really might have been Attorney General if he had kept his nose clean. He might have landed on the federal bench somewhere, having spent six years as AG of Oklahoma. Now he’s unconfirmable. Baffling.
Update: Pruitt says goodbye.
Pruitt resignation letter. pic.twitter.com/rPkWBlmsV4
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 5, 2018