Scott Pruitt

Will EPA Head Scott Pruitt Be Shown the Door?

A parade of nearly comical ethics scandals is overwhelming his record as a deregulator.


Scott Pruitt
Kris Tripplaar/Sipa USA/Newscom

The knives have come out for Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt. His deregulatory bona fides are being overwhelmed by a whole host of scandals that may have finally reached a tipping point.

Today The New York Times reports that Pruitt's staff was under pressure to help the man use his status to get favors for his family and himself. To wit:

As an example, Mr. Pruitt, shortly after taking the E.P.A. job, reached out to the former speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates seeking help for his daughter, McKenna, in securing admission to the University of Virginia School of Law. William Howell, the former speaker, appears on Mr. Pruitt's official E.P.A. calendar, and he confirmed in an interview that he was approached by Mr. Pruitt and subsequently wrote a letter to the school's dean on the daughter's behalf.

Mary M. Wood, a spokeswoman for the university, declined to comment on the letter, which has not been previously reported, citing student privacy. Mr. Howell said he doubted his letter tipped the scales for Ms. Pruitt. A spokesman for Mr. Pruitt said that he and Mr. Howell had known each other for two decades and that "letters of recommendation are normal process for an application to law school."

(Important correction from the Times here: After this piece was published, Howell realized he had gotten the date wrong on the timeline for the request. Pruit had not actually started work at the EPA when he requested the letter for his daughter. They've updated the story.)

For those who keep a close eye on government corruption, this probably seems like small potatoes, and it is. (And it's very much in line with common Beltway behavior to try to use connections to get kids into schools.) Indeed, most of Pruitt's scandals are pretty small potatoes—using his staff for all sorts of inappropriate purposes, like tracking down lotion and trying to get his wife a Chick-fil-A franchise. Some of these are Veep-level comically dumb. It's easy to imagine Selina sending her toadyish personal assistant Gary off on a mission to track down a used mattress from a Trump hotel, just as Pruitt is accused of doing.

But with enough small potatoes you can make quite the hash. All these ethical lapses are overwhelming anything Pruitt might be accomplishing as a deregulator.

National Review is no fan of President Trump, but it's very much a magazine for conservatives who'd like to see fewer federal regulations. Its policy goals align with Pruitt's. But they've had enough, and they're calling for Pruitt to step down:

This is no way for any public official to treat taxpayers. It also makes it practically impossible for Pruitt to make the case for the Trump administration's environmental policies—a case that we continue to believe deserves to be made. It does not help that Pruitt's conduct has left him nearly alone at the agency. Many of his top aides have fled and paranoia seems to consume those who remain.

We share most of Pruitt's views about environmental policy. But the same could be said of many other people, including Andrew Wheeler, the agency's deputy administrator, who would become acting administrator upon a vacancy in the top job. Pruitt is replaceable. And he should be replaced.

Reason's Ron Bailey has previously described how Pruitt's attempts to personally benefit from his role at the EPA undermines his mission. Environmental activists regularly claim that deregulation is pushed by corrupt corporations. When the head of the EPA is clearly using his power to benefit himself and his family, this feeds the association between deregulation and corruption.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) claims he hasn't been paying attention to Pruitt's ethics issues. Today Trump gave a rather vague defense that should be considered a warning sign: "I'm not happy about certain things, but he's done a fantastic job running the EPA, which is very overriding." The subtext is that it can stop being "overriding" at any point. That Trump is "not happy" about some of Pruitt's behavior is an issue.

But given Trump's mercurial tendencies, it's hard to predict what might happen or when. Maybe Pruitt will stay on for a long time. Maybe Trump will fire him over Twitter this afternoon.

This post has been updated to note an important correction about one accusation against Pruitt from The New York Times.

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  1. “That’s a very nice door. Now, would you please stop wasting my time? I have a job to do..”

    1. UPDATE:

      The NYT times piece has been updated with the part about his daughters university application being corrected.

      “Correction: June 16, 2018
      An earlier version of this article included an item that erroneously described Scott Pruitt’s use of his position at the Environmental Protection Agency for personal matters. While a Virginia lawmaker, William Howell, said he wrote a letter of recommendation to the University of Virginia Law School on behalf of Mr. Pruitt’s daughter, McKenna, he actually wrote it while Mr. Pruitt was the attorney general of Oklahoma. After publication of the article, additional research by a legislative aide, Mr. Howell said, showed he had incorrectly stated the date of the letter, which he said was actually written on Nov. 1, 2016, more than three months before Mr. Pruitt was confirmed as E.P.A. administrator, in February 2017. The law school, which had declined to comment for the article because of privacy concerns, issued a statement on Saturday saying Ms. Pruitt had given the school permission to confirm that she had been offered early admission in late November 2016 and that the “application was evaluated according to our usual admissions procedures.” The material about Ms. Pruitt’s application has been removed from the article.”

      Do journalists even check things anymore?

      1. Well, to be fair, it was the source who made the mistake. But I will correct the blog post. Thanks for the note!

  2. I hope Pruitt stays in office at least long enough to ring up enough charges to precipitate some jail time.

    Pruitt’s conduct indicates God’s plan for him involves servant leadership in a prison fellowship group.

    1. I’m hoping we get a real attorney general that dusts off the sedition laws, with people like you squarely in his crosshairs, plus having congress revive the HUAC, and dragging your friends in front of it. Then proceeding to destroy their lives.

      You have no right to be a Marxist. Every breath you take is an act of sedition and treason to the republic and the constitution. A lot of folks here have deluded themselves that your beliefs are merely wrong. I know better. Given the opportunity you would remove all freedoms and put is all under a totalitarian Marxist regime.

      Best to put and end to all of you, to preserve our constitution, and our freedoms.

      1. Open wider, Elias.

        Your betters are going to shove even more progress down your throat soon. You’re going to think school prayer, gay marriage, creationism, and Obamacare were a picnic.

        1. You realize the only reason that you and your friends love to see another day is because my friends and I allow it, right? If conservatives/libertarians decided we had enough of your shit tomorrow, you would be wiped off the map by next week.

          That’s the prow lem with progressives being a bunch of beta male pussies that are scared of guns and can’t fight for themselves.

          Personally, I’m hoping you morons really believe the shit you spout and finally overstep. Then your lessons will begin.

          As you are a dress wearing little bitch, I say carry on Klinger.

          1. Somebody got triggered and wants their safe space.

            1. Other than FreeRepublic, Stormfront, and Breitbart, there are few safe spaces left for right-wingers.

              That could explain why so many right-wingers from society’s fringe come to a libertarian site and prance around in garish libertarian drag, trying to feel at home.

              1. Why does a communist traitor like you come here instead of HuffPo, Mother Jones, Vox, or some other treason oriented publication?

  3. I kinda sorta want to know what he planned to do with a used mattress from a Trump hotel, but I hope nobody tells me. Okay, wait….go ahead and tell me. NO, NO, I changed my mind, don’t tell me! Okay, just whisper me a hint, just a little hint. NO! DON’T! I don’t even want to think about it. Okay, let me get a little drunker and then tell me. Is it something that would have caused SugarFree to throw up in his mouth a little bit? Don’t tell me!

    1. It’s the pee mattress

      1. Toxic waste disposal, as is the proper job of the head of the EPA? Or a very specific fetish?

        1. My guess is that the pee tape is real and it’s sexy as hell. Pruitt couldn’t get it out of his head and needed the mattress for himself

          1. *From the tape*

            Trump: Yes, pee on me. That’s a yuge amount of pee…….oh, this is sexy as hell…….so classy

          2. I want to see the docs when that mattress was imported from Moscow and whether any HazMat fees were charged.

  4. This may sound conspiratorial, but I think all these investigations by the news industry has less to do with him behaving any differently than his predecessor and everything to do with the fact that he is a deregulator and has the wrong politics.

    I know, it’s crazy to accuse the NYT and WaPo of bias. But, according to the Washington Free Beacon and Fox his predecessor spent more on the same trip to Italy that Pruitt was dinged for. I understand that the Washington Free Beacon and Fox are biased publications, and obviously not unbiased like NYT and WaPo.…

    But, misuse of taxpayer dollar is misuse of taxpayer dollars and Pruitt is an idiot to believe that rules are applied equally.

    1. I don’t think it’s “conspiratorial.” I think the press got a taste for blood when Price left, and they’re trying to do the same thing with Pruitt. The constant stream of petty corruption makes for easy copy. And I say that as someone who is absolutely opposed to what Pruitt is doing.

      I wish the press spent more of its time focusing on the way he’s shirking his constitutional duty to enforce the law, even laws he doesn’t like, and his blatant disregard for the laws that govern how rules and regulations have to be reviewed and replaced. I wish they started studying the ways in which his war on expertise and tipping the scales in how environmental regulations are evaluated in favor of polluters. And I think he should absolutely be thrown out for all of that activity. But they want to focus on used mattresses and telephone booths.

      1. Oh but he is enforcing the law, and that is what you find so disturbing. Gone are the days of sue and settle backdooring laws into existence. Gone are the days of installing eco-cronies on regulatory committees so NRDC, WWF, and other radically unscientific groups can no longer impose their will on the country.

      2. Don’t you always love that regulations pushed in without congressional oversight are “laws” and once in the book cannot be changed? It’s almost like we don’t have an entire other branch dedicated to such matters.

        If you want something permanent then pass a law. If you want something fleeting then get it through the fourth branch of government not defined in the Constitution. It’s seems a simple concept so often lost. But go on harping about how you love unchecked power only when your team is in power. Just shut up and accept the consequence when they aren’t if you want to continue such chicanery of government.

  5. Usuing staffers time like that is inappropriate.

    I don’t think asking for a letter of recommendation is at all though.

  6. No. Anybody that could make it through the nomination process is going to be just as venal, greedy and self-important the only reason anybody cares about any of this is because he’s effective at his job. The sad fact is this stuff is all as you eloquently stated “small-potatos”. Essentially anyone I would view as a suitable candidate for the EPA would be a non starter as far as the nomination process, so in the meantime I’ll take the self-serving corrupt piece of shit who cuts regulation over the self-serving corrupt piece of shit who doesn’t.

    1. You’re a bad woketarian

  7. using his staff for all sorts of inappropriate purposes, like tracking down lotion


    1. Anyone who was ever a teenage boy has spent hours tracking down lotion for his staff. This is hardly news.

      1. I never did.

        And now you have that to add to your “Tony Facts.”

        1. “Tony Facts,” huh. Talk about your lesser works of Bulwer-Lytton.

          1. Nobody gets your hipster England references.

          2. Tony’s never bothered with facts before … oh wait, I c what u did there.

  8. Environmental activists regularly claim that deregulation is pushed by corrupt corporations.

    Environmental zealots will say anything to end deregulation.

    Is any of this “corruption” illegal? No, then continue the deregulation.

    Common theme during the Trump era: Lefties hate DeVos, Pruitt, Sessions, Trump, Gorsuch, and anyone else Trump is using to roll back government.

    1. A good deal of it is illegal, actually. Problem is, there’s one enforcer, and he’s worse than them all.

      1. Richard Winsor would like a word.

      2. “A good deal of it is illega”

        Like what?

      3. Get the lynch mob ready, boys. Long known associates colluded to have a college merit letter written. This is the hill we die on.

      4. What is illegal?

        Asking someone to write a college admission letter?

        Politicians do not consider the large amount of unethical behavior criminal, so you have to ask why lefties are attacking Pruitt for doing legal things in his position. Pruitt is helping to roll back government regulations, which is why the lefties hate him.

      5. You judge this illegal, yet are convinced that nothing the FBI found indicates Hillary was guilty of mishandling classified material.


  9. Pruitt is a target because he is an effective EPA administrator and is effectively dismantling the leftist edifice of regulations.

    That is the only reason he is in the news.

    1. It’s also the only reason why Trump is not happy.

      1. Trump told you this?

        Or are you gullible enough to fall for the lame and vague innuendo in this article?

    2. How cartoonishly corrupt does a person have to be for that (R) to stop being a shield?

      1. How cartoonishly corrupt does a person have to be for that (D/vagina/skin colour/sexual preference) to stop being a shield?

        Oh shit I forgot. Like all totalitarians you don’t live by the rules you preach.

  10. give the guy a break

    the progressive commies hate him – hahahahahaaaa

    So as long as he deregulates and is cutting staff and bull shit in the EPA he should continue to bug the commie nut jobs.

  11. Have come out?
    They’ve been out since the second that his selection was announced by the Trump Transition.
    I’m surprised that he hasn’t been accused of excessive maleness, or something.

  12. Can someone explain to me how asking “the former speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates” to write a reference for Pruitt’s daughter is corruption or even unethical? Is this former speaker an employee of Pruitt’s? Was there some suggestion that the former speaker was coerced in some way?

    1. Pruitt needs to set up a non profit to accept donations. Then its OK.

    2. Particularly since the request was made 3 months before his appointment…..

  13. It’s clearly “a thousand cuts” attack .

    The picayune nature of each of the charges is what gets me .

    1. There’s a bounty on this stuff in the swamp. It’s an Alinsky thing. It used to be used as blackmail to get shit done.

    2. Reason is a big fan of the idea of libertarianism, but when it’s done by the wrong sort their excitement quickly wanes.

      1. So libertarianism is a guy who wants to help corporations avoid accountability in the costs they pass on the public for cleanup operations that will take place at some future date because of the way Pruitt caters to these companies?

        You seriously think companies dont need to be regulated? Maybe we should let homeowners just dump all kinds of paint down the storm drains becuase it is cheaper and more convenient for them to do so.

  14. Is the teens of thousands of dollars spent on a conference table no longer an issue for Pruitt now that the FBI’s McCabe has been found doing the same?

    Because I seem to recall Reason thinking this was a big deal, even had a whole article on it.

    Funny how the concern over principals keeps overriding principles.

  15. I’ll admit that I’ve stopped paying any attention to the litany of charges against the man. When the first half dozen turned out to be Leftist hysteria about nothing I concluded that the whole business was noise with no signal.

  16. Scott Pruitt has done nothing wrong.

  17. yeah, in the land where a Flint can happen, we seriously need less regulations ???? I have no problem with reforming regulations as some regulations are just asinine. But just chopping regulations should not be the goal of the EPA. Pruitt is corrupt. Only a blind idiot would deny that. What needs to be done is for sensible people with no agenda(left or right) to go about reforming, streamlining regulations and adding regulations in places which need it.

    Without regulations, there is very little that can practically consistently stop a profit seeking corporation from trying to cut costs and pass the buck of their cleanup to someone else.

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