The Pruitt Watch (#swamped)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. (Photo: Jason Andrew/Getty Images)

The list from Steve Benen might, ‘twixt now and Monday, have become obsolete; it’s hard to tell, some days.

1. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s controversial travel habits.

2. The House Oversight Committee is also exploring the EPA chief’s use of public funds for first-class travel.

3. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s behind-the-scenes talks with the National Mining Association.

4. Pruitt’s exorbitant spending on an around-the-clock security detail is the subject of three inspector general investigations.

5. The House Oversight Committee is also examining the EPA chief’s security expenditures.

6. The Government Accountability Office has already investigated Pruitt for exceeding federal spending limits when he bought a $43,000 phone booth for his office.

7. The White House Office of Management and Budget is also investigating the phone booth.

8. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s use of funds set aside for the Safe Drinking Water Act and diverting the money to give generous raises to two of his top aides.

9. The EPA’s inspector general is investigating Pruitt’s four-day trip to Morocco late last year.

10. The Government Accountability Office is investigating Pruitt’s ouster of scientists from the EPA’s science advisory committee.

11. The Government Accountability Office is investigating whether Pruitt broke lobbying laws with comments he made to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association.

12. The House Oversight Committee is investigating Pruitt’s living arrangement at a lobbyist’s condo.

13. And as noted above, the EPA’s inspector general is now also taking a closer look at Pruitt’s time at that condo.

Before the day was out, the msnbc blogger found himself adding to the list, sort of, noting a “controversy that should become the 14th” in a Reuters report describing a financial hardship waiver Pruitt’s EPA granted to an Oklahoma facility for a company owned by former Trump administration hand Carl Icahn:

The waiver enables Icahn’s CVR Energy Inc (CVI.N) to avoid tens of millions of dollars in costs related to the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The regulation is meant to cut air pollution, reduce petroleum imports and support corn farmers by requiring refiners to mix billions of gallons of biofuels into the nation’s gasoline and diesel each year.

And it does, you know, just keep going downhill.

No, really; today Benen reflects on a period “that should (but probably won’t) end Scott Pruitt’s career”.

Consider what we’ve learned about the far-right EPA chief since Monday afternoon:

1. Pruitt has been accused of lying to Congress while giving testimony under oath.

2. Pruitt appears to have done a highly lucrative favor for a major Trump supporter who helped Pruitt get his job.

3. Two of Pruitt’s top aides abruptly resigned.

4. The Associated Press reported that the lobbyist whose wife rented a condo to Pruitt for $50 a night “sought EPA committee posts for a lobbying client, according to a newly released EPA memo.”

5. The Washington Post reported that Richard Smotkin, a former Comcast lobbyist and longtime Pruitt associate, helped arrange Pruitt’s controversial and trip to Morocco last year. Taxpayers ended up paying for the trip, which Pruitt took for reasons that the EPA has struggled to explain.

6. The New York Times reported that a former lobbyist for foreign governments played a central role in attempting to set up a trip for Pruitt to Australia, and then “took steps to disguise his role.”

7. TPM reported that in early 2017, after Pruitt took the reins at the EPA, he “directed his future chief of staff to explore the creation of an EPA office in Pruitt’s hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, even though an EPA office with authority over Oklahoma already existed in Dallas, Texas.”

Even by 2018 standards, this is an astonishing 48 hours for a high-profile cabinet official—and yet, Pruitt will almost certainly keep his job.

And that last is important; the clock has been ticking for at least a month, by custom even if there is no other remaining functional metric. Still, the problem with invoking The Simpsons (#BABF08) has something to do with history repeating itself, accelerating cycles, deviation from political norms, and the likelihood that not much time is required before we might try the “Three Stooges Syndrome” metaphor again, and perhaps this iteration will seem simplistic, premature, and ambitiously self-gratifying. Something about sustainability goes here, but not like he means it.

Because wait, there’s more.

Oh . . . right. Okay, so, if the Icahn waiver was number two on that second list, number three might be worth a moment to consider:

Two top aides to Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency chief who is facing an array of investigations related to his spending and management practices, have resigned amid widening scrutiny of their roles at the agency.

The departures include Pasquale Perrotta, who served as Mr. Pruitt’s chief of security and helped facilitate the costly and unusual team of bodyguards and other protective measures provided to Mr. Pruitt — measures that critics have called unnecessary.

Also departing was Albert Kelly, a longtime friend of Mr. Pruitt’s and a former banker who received a lifetime ban from the finance industry last year following a banking violation. Mr. Kelly ran the agency’s Superfund program, which oversees the cleanup of hazardous waste sites.


The New York Times article on the EPA resignations asserts eleven federal investigations; Benen’s list includes an apparently completed investigation of the soundproof phone booth, and “a closer look” at aspects of the Secretary’s time living in a lobbyist’s condo, and notes additionally a requested investigation into Pruitt’s email practices.

At some point it really is the strangest thing; once upon a time, conservatives actually pretended to care about corruption. Or, more directly, if it is somehow inappropriate to presume conservatism to inherently require fundamental corruption, conservatives have pretty much abused that standard well past rubbing anyone’s nose in it; they are simply making the point, over and over again. This is problematic, to say the least, yet EPA Director Scott Pruitt endures. Quite clearly, this is #WhatTheyVotedFor.


Image note: EPA Director Scott Pruitt. (Photo: Jason Andrew/Getty Images).

Benen, Steve. “48 hours that should (but probably won’t) end Scott Pruitt’s career”. msnbc. 2 May 2018.

—————. “How many investigations is the EPA’s Pruitt currently facing?”. msnbc. 30 April 2018.

—————. “The EPA does a lucrative favor for Carl Icahn, a key Trump ally”. msnbc. 30 April 2018.

Davenport, Coral. “Two Top Aides to Scott Pruitt Quit the E.P.A. Unexpectedly”. The New York Times. 2 May 2018.

Renshaw, Jarrett and Chris Prentice. “Exclusive: U.S. EPA grants biofuels waiver to billionaire Icahn’s oil refinery—sources”. 30 April 2018.

Wikisimpsons. “The Mansion Family”. 2 October 2015.

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