Yesterday, two Republican lawmakers – Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) – publicly called on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to resign. Given the number and the severity of the Oklahoman’s scandals, the calls were hardly out of place.
The avalanche of damaging headlines about the embattled EPA chief has been staggering – and difficult to keep up with. The controversy surrounding Pruitt’s living arrangements at a lobbyist’s home is probably the most serious, but there are also stories about Pruitt’s misuse of public funds for expensive travel, his misuses of public funds for unnecessary security measures, the explored lease of a private jet, the suspicious raises for his top aides, the questions about the work those aides did for him, and on and on.
Now seems like an excellent time for Pruitt to explain himself. This, however, won’t cut it.
Embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt told the Washington Examiner on Tuesday that reports on his excessive spending and scrutiny over his housing are just fueled by critics trying to derail President Trump’s agenda.
“There are people that have long in this town done business a different way and this agency has been the poster child of it,” he told the Examiner’s “Washington Secrets” team. “And so do I think that because we are leading on this agenda that there are some who want to keep that from happening? Absolutely. And do I think that they will resort to anything to achieve that? Yes. … It’s toxic here in that regard.”
It’s true that Pruitt is leading the EPA far differently than his predecessors. For example, previous EPA administrators supported the EPA and its mission, listened to EPA scientists, put a high priority in protecting clean air and clean water, and didn’t take first-class flights to Morocco to promote the interests of their lobbyist landlords.
But even putting that aside, the scandal-plagued Republican doesn’t seem to appreciate the seriousness of the allegations.
If Pruitt’s critics were taking a bunch of cheap shots at him, throwing around nonsense in the hopes of creating a cloud of controversy, he might be justified in feeling sorry for himself, whining about “toxic” politics and resistance to change.
But the scandals surrounding Pruitt are real. The controversies aren’t just slapped together allegations from the fever swamps; these are credible and well-reported allegations, raising the specter of serious misdeeds worthy of investigation.
For him to effectively respond, “Everyone’s picking on me because I’m gutting the EPA from within” isn’t a proper answer to legitimate questions.