Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt probably should been fired a dozen times by now. He hasn’t, however, because when it comes to Trump’s overarching goal of rendering the federal government’s regulatory power toothless, he’s been one of Trump’s most effective agency heads. But that doesn’t mean that the White House is happy.
Chief of Staff John Kelly wanted to know, after revelations had surfaced that Pruitt had been renting living space in Washington, D.C., from a pair of high-powered lobbyists—one of whom was lobbying his agency at the time—what other shoes, if any, were going to drop. Is there anything else that “hasn’t come out” yet, Kelly asked, according to three Trump administration sources. The chief of staff then impressed upon Pruitt that, though he has the full public confidence of President Trump for now, the flow of negative and damning stories needed to stop soon, as one source briefed on the contents of the call described.
“[It] was not a friendly buck-up call at all,” is how another Trump administration official described the conversation to The Daily Beast.
Is a phone call from the White House asking you to try to not do corruption ever a “friendly buck-up call?”
Then another Pruitt story, about him bypassing the White House to give raises to top aides, broke in the Atlantic. “Kelly and other senior White House officials were blindsided by major details in The Atlantic’s article, left frustrated and wondering if Pruitt and the EPA still weren’t conveying damaging news to the West Wing,” the Daily Beast reported. Gee, why would they think that?
The Daily Beast story wasn’t the only bad news for Pruitt today. The Washington Post also reported that Pruitt hired multiple lobbyists and aides for nonessential roles through a provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act designed “to let the agency quickly hire senior management and scientific personnel during times of critical need.” And this afternoon, Pruitt went on Fox News to defend himself and promptly got his ass handed to him—always a good sign when you’re a cabinet member in a Republican administration—for being the head of an agency who mysteriously does not know who gave raises to his staffers.
In other words, Pruitt had an uneventful Wednesday.
Despite the seemingly never-ending stream of stories about Pruitt doing something laughably unethical, however, a source told the Daily Beast that “as long as [Trump] feels Pruitt is effective and on his side, he’s probably fine.” OK then!