Top Pruitt aide resigns from EPA amid controversies

A top aide and close friend of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Watchdog opens investigation into Interior chief | Judge halts Pruitt truck pollution rule decision | Winners, losers in EPA, Interior spending bill amendments Sanders endures press grilling over Russia Court blocks EPA policy against enforcing truck pollution rule MORE has issued her resignation in the midst of various scandals plaguing the agency chief.

Samantha Dravis, the senior counsel and associate administrator in EPA's Office of Policy, tendered her resignation last week, the agency confirmed to The Hill on Thursday.

The sudden departure is described by one source familiar with the EPA as a “five-alarm story.”

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A friend close to Dravis suggested her decision to leave had been building.

"She has been looking to leave for a while. A lot of people in the administration wanted her to stay for the year to put her time in but it’s one drama after another. It’s a shit show," the source said.

Dravis has a long history with Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma.

She previously worked with Pruitt as policy director and general counsel at the Republican Attorneys General Association. She was also president of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, affiliated with the same organization, and before that legal counsel at Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce — an organization of conservative political donors led by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

The source familiar with the agency described the relationship between Pruitt and Dravis as a close working relationship, saying the aide was Pruitt's "best friend" at the agency and someone he had dinner with "several times every week."

An EPA official pushed back on any characterization that the two had a close personal relationship, saying that Pruitt frequently had meals with his staffers, the majority of which were in group settings.

Dravis declined to comment for the story. 

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said Dravis is departing the agency to pursue other career opportunities. 

"After serving for over a year as EPA’s head of policy, Samantha Dravis has decided to pursue other opportunities. She has been integral in the agency’s successful implementation of the President’s environmental agenda and the agency wishes her success in her future endeavors," Bowman said in a statement.

Two sources told The Washington Post that Dravis's resignation was unrelated to Pruitt’s recent onslaught of ethics issues and that she is leaving to join the private sector.

Pruitt has recently come under fire for a number of scandals, including a decision to significantly raise the salaries of two close EPA political appointees. The salaries of Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp — who had both come to Washington with Pruitt from Oklahoma — were raised from $107,435 to $164,200, and from $86,460 to $114,590, respectively, The Atlantic reported.

Pruitt denied knowledge of the raises in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, and said the appropriate person who had signed off on the raises would be dealt with.

The EPA head has also weathered a storm of controversy involving his living arrangements, as well as a number of questionable decisions he has made at the agency. 
 
Last week, ABC News first reported that Pruitt rented a two-bedroom condo on Capitol Hill for $50 each night he slept there. Pruitt’s daughter also lived for a period of time in the condo, which was owned by the wife of a prominent energy lobbyist. On Monday, The Washington Post reported that the EPA considered leasing a private jet for Pruitt for $100,000 a month.
 
The news has led to a number of calls from members of Congress for Pruitt to step down or be fired — including from two GOP House members.
 
Trump on Tuesday downplayed the likelihood that Pruitt could soon be fired, telling reporters, "I hope he's going to be great."
 
However on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to answer directly when asked by reporters if President Trump has confidence in Pruitt.
 
"The president thinks that he's done a good job, particularly on the deregulation front," Sanders said.
 
Timothy Cama contributed. 
 
Updated: 1:38 p.m.