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Trump says Scott Pruitt is doing a “great job” as EPA chief

Despite the scandals.

Fliers posted around Capitol Hill poke fun at EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on April 6, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Fliers posted around Capitol Hill poke fun at EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on April 6, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

President Donald Trump defended embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Twitter over the weekend, saying he is doing a fine job in spite of mounting ethics concerns surrounding the former Oklahoma state attorney general. It makes it seem like as long as you’re rolling back environmental protections aggressively enough, Trump will stick by you.

The list of Pruitt’s ethics scandals is long, though. They include spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a full-time, 20-person security detail, renting a condo from a powerful lobbyist for just $50 a night, opting for extra-expensive travel options, bypassing the White House to get raises for his closest aides, and demoting officials who raised concerns about his spending and management. He also once asked his security team to turn on the lights and sirens in his motorcade to get to a Washington, DC, restaurant faster.

According to Trump, those millions of dollars in security spending were “Somewhat more than his predecessor.” Pruitt’s $50-a-night housing a block away from the Capitol building, owned by a Washington lobbyist, was, according to Trump, “about market rate.” And the first-class travel? “OK.”

“While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA,” President Trump tweeted late Saturday night. “Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!”

Things aren’t going great for Pruitt

Pruitt — who has undone multiple environmental regulations in his brief tenure and has been one of the president’s favorite Cabinet members — has come under fire after his unethical behavior was reported.

A handful of Republicans have called for Pruitt to resign, and the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told the president he thinks Pruitt needs to step down. In an interview with the EPA chief this week, Fox News’s Ed Henry was surprisingly tough on him, pushing back on Pruitt’s assertion that he didn’t know how two of his staffers got raises despite the White House’s opposition. “You don’t know? You run the agency. You don’t know who did this?” Henry asked. “I found out about this yesterday, and I corrected the action,” Pruitt said.

Some, however, are sticking by Pruitt, including a number of high-profile Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Pruitt has told multiple lies in defending himself, but thus far, the president appears to believe his account. And, more than that, Trump seems to like him — there are even some rumors Trump might replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Pruitt. Despite the long list of figures ousted from the Trump administration, Pruitt is hanging on.