When Scott Pruitt walks into work every morning, he has just two things on his to-do list: systematically dismantle all of the tools the government has put in place to protect the environment over the past 50 years, and be a huge dumbass who embarrasses the White House. He does both things very, very well.
Today, the cartoonishly corrupt EPA administrator is set to appear before a pair of congressional committees, and the White House apparently knows as much about what’s he going to say as we do. On Tuesday, the Daily Beast reported that Pruitt, who is currently facing 10 federal inquiries related to all of his scandals, turned down help from the White House to prepare for Thursday’s congressional hearings; one White House official characterized his response as “get lost.” The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey said on Wednesday night that the White House has “little idea” what Pruitt is going to say today:
According to the Post, Pruitt has shut the White House out recently because he’s not interested in “turning the page,” whatever that means, and believes the White House is “out to get him.” He might not be entirely wrong about that part; the Post reported on Wednesday night that Pruitt “has lost the backing of many senior aides,” including Chief of Staff John Kelly (who has wanted him gone for weeks) and that Pruitt has just been straight-up ignoring calls from White House officials. And in another story on Wednesday night, the Daily Beast reported that one White House aide said they want Pruitt to “crash and burn” during the hearing.
The Post also says that both budget director Mick Mulvaney and the White House Counsel’s office are launching intensified probes into Pruitt’s spending habits and blatant conflicts of interests with lobbyists, respectively. “We’ve seen the reports and it raises questions,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told NPR. “And the EPA, quite frankly, and Mr. Pruitt, are going to have to answer those questions in short order.”
Fortunately, the fans Pruitt apparently has left in the White House are some of the most powerful ones: White House Director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short, a former Koch lackey who has been apparently telling donors that Pruitt has “done well” at the EPA, and Trump himself, according to the Post. But while Trump is not ready to can Pruitt, the president “has become increasingly concerned as new allegations have continued to surface,” the paper reports. To reiterate: Pruitt is currently facing 10 federal inquiries.
While he’s been ghosting the White House, Pruitt has been talking to Republican members of Congress, trying to glean information about what they might ask him. Republican Tom Cole, who is from Pruitt’s home state of Oklahoma, told the Post that he told Pruitt that the hearing would “be pretty rough, and be ready.” Seems like a bit of an understatement.
What we do know about Pruitt’s upcoming testimony, from a Wednesday New York Times report on an “internal EPA document”—Pruitt’s employees sure do love him—is that he apparently plans to blame everyone for his dumb decisions but himself:
The responses show that Mr. Pruitt is prepared to push back hard against accusations that he misspent taxpayer money and to blame both career and political staff members as well as his security detail for myriad spending decisions.
If Mr. Pruitt is asked about the roughly $163,000 in first-class flights he has taken since assuming the helm of E.P.A., the document suggests that Mr. Pruitt will say he was obligated to take the advice of his security team that first class was safer. But, he may tell lawmakers, he has since instructed officers to address security threats in new ways, including by allowing him to sit in coach.
“Changes have already begun occurring and I have been flying coach,” was one possible response, according to the document.
Now that’s what I call bravery: an EPA administrator who’s willing to fly coach despite all of the, uh, “security concerns.” Meanwhile, this is the talking point about the insane raises given to top aides that Pruitt definitely did not know about and approve, for sure (emphasis mine):
If he is asked about the 67 percent and 72 percent raises given to current aides who worked for Mr. Pruitt when he served as attorney general of Oklahoma, the document indicates he should answer that all decisions were made by others. The raises are suspended while the White House reviews them, he may say.
Considering how good he’s been at defending himself in the past, this all seems like it’s going to go super well for Scott Pruitt.