FILE PHOTO: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during a meeting held by U.S. President Donald Trump on infrastructure at the White House in Washington,...
Kevin Lamarque

A scandal EPA chief Scott Pruitt may not be able to survive

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/29/18, 9:58 PM ET

Pruitt scandal dwarfs Shulkin's, giving lie to firing excuse

Rachel Maddow points out that the explanation that David Shulkin was fired over his travel scandal doesn’t make sense in light of the administration’s other travel scandals, particularly that of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who not only used more
Rachel Maddow points out that the explanation that David Shulkin was fired over his travel scandal doesn’t make sense in light of the administration’s other travel scandals, particularly that of EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who not only used more
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s latest scandal came up during a roundtable discussion on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, and it led to an interesting exchange between George Stephanopoulos and former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.).

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does he have to go?

CHRISTIE: Listen, I don’t know how you survive this one. And if he has to go, it’s because he never should have been there in the first place.

The former Republican governor, who was briefly tapped to lead Donald Trump’s transition team before being replaced the week after the election, had a series of related concerns, which seemed to be part of an effort to avoid blame for the president’s mess.

But at the heart of the message was an important observation: common sense suggests the EPA chief’s scandal will cost him his career. The traditional political rules sometimes don’t apply in the Trump era, but in this instance, I think Christie’s correct.

As we discussed on Friday, the first sign of trouble came when Pruitt took a first-class trip to Morocco late last year – it cost $40,000 and you paid for it – in order to have the EPA chief pitch “the potential benefit of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports on Morocco’s economy.”

Why the head of the EPA would make economic energy recommendations to foreign countries was unclear. The answer, however, soon after seemed to come into focus.

The only LNG export plant in the country hired a lobbyist, and Scott Pruitt lived in a Capitol Hill condo – for $50 a night, far below market value – in the Capitol Hill home owned by the lobbyist’s wife.

And in case the story weren’t quite alarming enough, ABC News also reported on Friday afternoon, “The Environmental Protection Agency paid a Capitol Hill condo association $2,460 after Administrator Scott Pruitt’s security detail broke down the door, believing he was unconscious and unresponsive and needed rescue, ABC News has confirmed.”

Apparently, Pruitt was napping at the time.

The same report added the EPA chief’s adult daughter also lived there during her time as a White House intern last year.

Pruitt was already one of the most controversial members of the president’s cabinet, but this mess is almost certainly the most serious scandal of his tenure. Or as Chris Christie put it, “I don’t know how you survive this one.”

Postscript: The energy lobbyist in question is J. Steven Hart. If his name sounds at all familiar, it’s because Hart is also assisting the NRA in its controversy surrounding foreign assistance it’s accused of receiving.