Embattled administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt has resigned. President Donald Trump made the announcement on Twitter.
“I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this,” President Trump wrote earlier today.
Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler will assume the duties of acting administrator until a new head of the agency is confirmed by the Senate the President said.
“Your current steadfastness and resolute commitment to get results for the American people both with regard to improved environmental obstacles and historical regulatory reform is a fact occurring at an unprecedented pace,” Pruitt wrote in his resignation letter to President Trump. “That is why it is hard for me to advise you I am stepping down as administrator of the EPA as of July 6.”
“The unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us…I believe you are serving as president today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me in to your service…Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to,” Pruitt added.
Scandals dogged Pruitt’s term as Environmental Protection Agency head for months.
A former deputy chief of staff for operations at the EPA was expected to testify before Congress in coming weeks about “secret” calendars used to keep meetings that might paint the job Pruitt is doing in a negative light off his official calendar.
The alternate calendars were meant to hide meetings and calls with industry representatives and others that might appear controversial.
“We would have meetings what we were going to take off on the official schedule. We had at one point three different schedules. One of them was one that no one else saw except three or four of us,” said the aide, Kevin Chmielewski. “It was a secret … and they would decide what to nix from the public calendar.”
Chmielewski was forced to leave the EPA in February he says, after complaining about Pruitt’s spending and management.
Pruitt had also been under fire for allegedly asking a former top policy adviser, Samantha Davis, to reach out to the Republican Attorneys General Association to look for jobs for his wife with annual salaries of at least $200,000. Davis reportedly refused to follow through on the request.
In recent months it was revealed that Pruitt had crossed White House demands and given two political staffers from his time as Oklahoma’s Attorney General large raises by exploiting an obscure EPA rule.
Pruitt’s travel habits, flying first class because of security concerns, have also received intense scrutiny. This week Pruitt asked President Trump directly to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions with him, albeit on a temporary basis.
There was also an inquiry into a room that Pruitt was able to rent in a Washington D.C. condo for $50 a night from a woman who is the wife of a top energy industry lobbyist.
All told there were fifteen investigations being conducted into Pruitt for inappropriate behavior.
The bad press had caused conservatives to call for Pruitt’s resignation.
“Pruitt is the swamp. Drain it,” wrote conservative commentator Laura Ingraham on Twitter yesterday.
“I’m not going to come down here, just because he happens to be a nominee of a president I support … and try to defend the indefensible,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told Politico last month. Pruitt should have “learned his lesson” the first time he drew scrutiny for bad behavior, he added.
As recently as last month President Trump had indicated satisfaction with the job Pruitt was doing.
“I mean, we’re setting records,” the President said. “Outside, he’s being attacked very viciously by the press. I’m not saying that he’s blameless, but we’ll see what happens.”
In the end, the torrent of bad news proved too much for the President to bear.
“Scott is a terrific guy. And he came to me and he said I have such great confidence in the administration. I don’t want to be a distraction. And I think Scott felt that he was a distraction,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One today about the decision.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons