Who’s the most scandal-plagued member of Donald Trump’s team? It’s a subjective question, of course, but if we exclude the president himself, it’s fairly easy to make the case for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, followed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, both of whom have faced a series of awkward questions that have proven difficult to answer.
And as it turns out, those two cabinet officials were the subject of a fascinating report in The Atlantic yesterday about Pruitt’s team “scrambling to divert the spotlight” away from their controversial boss and toward Zinke.
In the last week, a member of Pruitt’s press team, Michael Abboud, has been shopping negative stories about Zinke to multiple outlets, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the efforts, as well as correspondence reviewed by The Atlantic. […]
The stories were shopped with the intention of “taking the heat off of Pruitt,” the sources said, in the aftermath of the EPA chief’s punishing congressional hearing last week.
According to the story, which an EPA spokesperson denied the accuracy of, the member of Pruitt’s press team believed Zinke’s staff was poised to “leak damaging information about the EPA, as part of a rivalry between Zinke and Pruitt.”
Abboud, the story goes, therefore tried to defend Pruitt by beating his rivals at the other cabinet agency to the punch.
It’s not altogether clear what, if anything, Pruitt knew about the scheme, but a White House official with knowledge of the events told The Atlantic, “Absolutely nothing Scott Pruitt did would surprise me.”
At a certain level, I can appreciate why much of the public would look past a story like this. After all, it involves allegations from dueling press teams. Click-bait, it isn’t.
Indeed, I imagine some cynics might assume cutthroat D.C. politics features back-stabbing tactics like these all of the time.
But reports like these are important because they serve as a reminder of a larger truth: the level of dysfunction surrounding the Trump administration isn’t normal. It fact, it’s ridiculous and kind of scary given the importance of the administration’s power and responsibilities.
Stories like these don’t reflect business as usual in the nation’s capital; they point to a governing dynamic that’s far dumber than it should be.