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.”
Pruitt has been widely criticized in recent weeks for everything from ethical conflicts within his department to excessive spending on his travel. In just the past few weeks it’s been reported that Pruitt has taken expensive first class plane trips for official and unofficial business; required round-the-clock security detail — including during a trip to Disney with his family; rented a cheap room from an energy lobbyist’s wife for part of last year; and defied orders from the White House in order to give huge raises to two of his favorite aides. Pruitt is currently under investigation by the EPA’s inspector general and the House Oversight Committee.
Pruitt commented on the controversy over his lodging last year for the first time Tuesday, telling the Examiner that he was “dumbfounded” that it was considered controversial. He claimed the lobbyist had no business before his agency and mentioned that he had several ethics officials look at the lease, claiming his rent — $50 a day — was market value. Pruitt also alluded that living there was a difficult time for him because he was “living out of a suitcase.”
“You know, I was living out of a suitcase for the first four or five months I was here,” he said. “My wife was not here. My children were not here. My wife was back at home in Oklahoma until my kid went to college and my child went to law school. So we were actively trying to find a place to live and I was literally living out of a suitcase.”
Several news outlets reported on Tuesday that Pruitt was under an informal review by the White House and that the environmental chief could be on his way out.
But, according to the White House, President Donald Trump called Pruitt on Tuesday to reassure him that he wouldn’t be fired, despite reports that the negative news coverage “eats at” Trump.
Trump told reporters Tuesday “I hope” Pruitt was going to be great, a possible sign that Trump may be distancing himself from the embattled administrator, despite being publicly impressed with Pruitt’s regulatory rollback efforts.