FILE PHOTO: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in...
Aaron Bernstein

EPA’s Pruitt finds himself facing yet another federal investigation

As of mid-May, EPA chief Scott Pruitt was the subject of 14 separate federal investigations. Over the weekend, Politico reported on the 15th.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is reviewing claims that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt retaliated against a handful of employees who pushed back against his spending and management, according to three people familiar with the process.

At least six current and former agency officials were reportedly fired or reassigned to new jobs, allegedly for questioning Pruitt’s need for a 24-hour security protection – which has now cost at least $4.6 million – as well as his other spending and practices. OSC is in the process of interviewing some of those employees, according to the sources, although an OSC spokesman said the agency cannot comment on or confirm any open investigations.

For those keeping score, the far-right EPA administrator was sworn in at his current post in mid-February 2017 – which means Pruitt has only been on the job for roughly 16 months. Fifteen investigations in 16 months has to be some kind of record, right?

What’s more, this tally only refers to official probes that are already underway, and which have been publicly disclosed. It doesn’t include all kinds of other Pruitt-related scandals that are not yet under investigation.

Indeed, the larger list of corruption allegations against Donald Trump’s EPA chief is considerably longer – and continues to grow. The New York Times  reported overnight:

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, discussed hiring a friend of a lobbyist family that owned a condominium he was renting for $50 a night, newly released emails suggest. The files also show communications involving the lobbyist’s client interests that have not previously been disclosed, suggesting a closer relationship between the lobbyist, J. Steven Hart, and the agency than previously known.

The emails, released as part of a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club, an environmental group, contradict early assertions by Mr. Pruitt and Mr. Hart that Mr. Hart hadn’t lobbied the E.P.A. last year after concerns arose that Mr. Hart’s wife had rented the condo to Mr. Pruitt.

Following up on our coverage from a few weeks ago, once cabinet-level officials confront this many scandals, they tend to find a defense attorney and exit their posts. In Pruitt’s case, the Oklahoma Republican has found his defense attorney, but at least as of this minute, he’s still the head of the EPA.

I recently kicked around possible explanations for Pruitt sticking around, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to wrap one’s head around this. Even other far-right Republicans are giving up on this guy.

The Trump White House’s tolerance for corruption has been obvious for a while, but I think it’s getting worse.

EPA and Scandals

EPA's Pruitt finds himself facing yet another federal investigation