It hasn’t even been a month since President Trump placed Andrew Wheeler as the acting Administrator of the EPA, but the same media circus which followed Scott Pruitt every hour of the day is already taking their show on the road again. Reporters have been combing through records of every meeting that Wheeler has held and come up with a claim that he’s already in violation of administration ethics guidelines. Wheeler is a former lobbyist and in keeping with Trump administration rules, he’s not supposed to be talking to any of his recent clients, but the watchdogs of the Fourth Estate have come up with what they see as a few violations. (HuffPo)
Andrew Wheeler, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is facing his first call for an ethics probe less than three weeks after taking over in the wake of scandal-plagued former Administrator Scott Pruitt’s abrupt resignation.
On Thursday afternoon, E&E News reported that Wheeler, who a year ago worked as a coal and mining lobbyist, met with former clients at least three times since he was sworn in as deputy EPA administrator on April 20. The meetings appear to violate the Trump administration’s ethics pledge and break explicit promises Wheeler made to avoid conflicts of interest.
In a statement to HuffPost on Thursday evening, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) ― the No. 2 Democrat on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the ranking member of its subcommittee on oversight ― said the Office of Government Ethics should open a review.
Just terrible, right? Wheeler allegedly met with representatives from Darling Ingredients, Archer Daniel Midland Co. and South Coast Air Quality Management District. Since Wheeler was a lobbyist in the coal and energy industry, these were natural clients for his business.
But there’s one small problem with the story. Wheeler hadn’t worked with any of those clients over the past two years so the rule doesn’t apply to them. EPA career ethics official Justina Fugh already looked over the claims and declared that the meetings “squarely meet the bounds of his articulated recusal statement.” None of the listed companies had worked with Wheeler in the past two years.
The only thing made clear by this story is that the mainstream media already has an army of opposition researchers combing through every shred of documentation regarding Wheeler just as they did with Scott Pruitt. And it’s mandatory to point out that this is a degree of scrutiny never applied to EPA administrators under Barack Obama. They were going through Pruitt’s lunch schedule to see if he ate at a White House cafeteria “too often” while ignoring the fact that the EPA offices have no cafeteria. When they released the “shocking” details of the cost of Pruitt’s trip to the G-7 in Italy, they neglected to note that his Obama era predecessor had made precisely the same trip with the same agenda and spent twice as much. But back then, nobody in the press cared about such things.
Clearly, the scalp-hunting will continue for the rest of the Trump administration. The easing of regulatory burdens from the EPA outrages liberals who see it as somehow “undoing Barack Obama’s legacy.” On top of that, any Trump administration official who can be taken down or impugned as being “scandal-plagued” is a win in the new media playbook. This story about meetings with former clients turned out to be a flop, but don’t expect the train to stop there. I’m sure there’s somebody going through all of his receipts at this very moment to see if he ordered pizza too often.