Some Republicans are rallying around Pruitt

Some Republicans are rallying around Pruitt
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Key Republican lawmakers are lining up to support embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittDon’t be silenced in the name of ‘transparency’ Pelosi seizes on anti-corruption message against GOP Al Gore: Trump has had 'less of an impact on environment so far than I feared' MORE amid numerous controversies about his spending and management.

The support comes as President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand urges opposition to Kavanaugh: Fight for abortion rights 'is now or never' Trump claims tariffs on foreign nations will rescue US steel industry: report Bannon announces pro-Trump movie, operation team ahead of midterms: report MORE signaled he’s in no hurry to replace Pruitt, and as conservative commentators offer support on television and social media for an EPA chief who has sought to roll back regulations pursued by the Obama administration.

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump EPA to defend Obama smog rule | Wheeler gets warmer welcome before Senate | Animal rights groups sue Interior over pro-hunting council EPA’s Wheeler gets warmer welcome at Senate hearing Trump has no plans to endorse in Tennessee GOP governor's race: report MORE (R-Wyo.), who chairs the committee that oversees the EPA, indicated that he’s proud of Pruitt’s work at the agency and said he would hold off on any comment until the White House has thoroughly examined the issues at hand.

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“Certain questions have been raised about internal operations of the agency and the administrator’s actions,” he said. “The White House has indicated it has taken on a formal review of these questions. I will wait for the outcome of that process.”

Barrasso, who was accompanied by Pruitt and Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziBudget chairs press appropriators on veterans spending Forcing faith-based agencies out of the system is a disservice to women Senate takes symbolic shot at Trump tariffs MORE (R-Wyo.) last week on a tour of a massive coal mine in Wyoming, also said the EPA chief had been “instrumental in returning the agency to its original mission.”

“American workers are benefiting from his reversal of punishing regulations,” he added.

“He’s following through with what the policies the president said he wanted to implement,” Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsTougher Russia sanctions face skepticism from Senate Republicans EPA’s Wheeler gets warmer welcome at Senate hearing Tenn. Republicans to go on offense against Dem MORE (R-S.D.) said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Rounds said the criticisms of Pruitt amount to nitpicking.

“Oh, he has too big of a security detail? Is that suddenly the reason why you fire someone?” he asked.

That he uses a large security deal is just one of the issues for which Pruitt is under scrutiny.

Pruitt is under fire for renting a room from the wife of an energy lobbyist for $50 per day, a sum he only paid for the nights when he actually slept in the Capitol Hill condo.

His agency also gave raises to two top aides despite the White House rejecting Pruitt’s request, and Pruitt allegedly punished five officials for objecting to his spending and management decisions. 

On Monday, The Atlantic reported that Sarah Greenwalt, Pruitt’s senior counsel, sent an internal email last month saying Pruitt wanted her to get a significant pay raise. 

That contradicted what Pruitt told Fox News's Ed Henry last week, which was that he did not know that the EPA used a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act to increase her pay after the White House didn’t approve it.

Those are in addition to months-long criticisms about his spending, including that he took frequent first-class flights and kept a security detail costing millions of dollars.

Toward the end of last week, it appeared Pruitt’s time at the EPA might be coming to an end. But that was before Trump offered public support, something that has been noted by Republicans in Congress.

“It looks like the president has gone out of his way to say he has confidence in him, so I just have to assume that he’s sticking around until we hear to the contrary,” said Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynTop Senate Intel Dem: Trump compiling a 'Nixonian enemies list' It’s possible to protect national security without jeopardizing the economy Archivist rejects Democrats' demand for Kavanaugh documents MORE (R-Texas).

The president tweeted Saturday that Pruitt’s security costs are justified, his rent was “about market rate” and his travel expenses are “OK.” “Scott is doing a great job,” he concluded.

Even before Trump’s weekend tweet, allies of Pruitt were offering support.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who worked with Pruitt in his home state, heaped praise on him.

“Since being sworn in, Administrator Pruitt has been instrumental in carrying out President Trump’s deregulatory agenda at the EPA — ending the war on fossil fuels, repealing [the Clean Water Rule], exiting the Paris agreement and announcing new fuel emissions standards,” he said in a statement. “He’s been an effective member of the president’s team, and I look forward to continuing to work with him to restore the EPA to its proper size and scope.”

Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzElection Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' Former spokeswoman defends Trump calling Omarosa ‘dog’: He’s called men dogs Mellman: Two worlds — Online and off MORE (R-Texas), James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down House Intel lawmakers introduce bipartisan election security bill Trump officials look to neutralize cyber threats in supply chain MORE (R-Okla.) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul takes victory lap after Brennan's security clearance revoked Trump revokes Brennan's security clearance Republicans have spent .5 million at Trump properties since he took office: report MORE (R-Ky.) also put out supportive statements.

Pruitt still faces criticism and scrutiny.

The head of the Office of Government Ethics has scolded the EPA for its handling of the various potential ethical breaches.

“The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed,” acting Director David Apol wrote.

Apol doesn’t have the ability to punish Pruitt. But he said it is imperative that the EPA thoroughly investigate the controversies.

Three House Republicans have called for Pruitt to resign or be fired: Reps. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloCook Political Report moves 4 GOP seats to 'toss-up' category GOP lawmaker: Every white suburban district in the country will be a swing district this year The Hill's Morning Report — Election Day drama for Trump MORE (Fla.), Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenHouse GOP starts summer break on a note of friction Rosenstein impeachment push divides House GOP leadership Key primaries in August will help shape midterms MORE (Fla.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s GOP feuds dominate ahead of midterms Trump signs 7B annual defense policy bill into law The Hill's Morning Report — Trump heads to New York to shore-up GOP districts MORE (N.Y.).

And on Sunday, three GOP senators added to the criticisms.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTrump draws bipartisan fire over Brennan Kavanaugh has 'productive' meeting with key swing votes Budowsky: Collins, Murkowski and Kavanaugh MORE (Maine), the only Republican to vote against Pruitt’s nomination last year, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Pruitt, “on policy grounds alone ... is the wrong person to head the EPA.”

“Stop acting like a chucklehead,” Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) implored on NBC’s “Face the Nation.”

“Why do you want to rent an apartment from a lobbyist for God’s sake? Stop leading with your chin. Now these are unforced errors. They are stupid,” Kennedy continued.

“I think he’s done a good job, but I’m looking to see what the [House] Oversight Committee is going to say,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOn The Money: Turkey slaps more tariffs on US goods | Businesses fear blowback from Russia sanctions bill | Senate turns to toughest 'minibus' yet Businesses fear blowback from Russia sanctions bill White House staff offered discounts at Trump's NJ golf club: report MORE (R-S.C.) said ABC’s “This Week,” referring to Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyJim Carrey targets McCarthy, Nunes ahead of midterms House GOP prepares to grill DOJ official linked to Steele dossier Hillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down MORE’s (R-S.C.) investigation into Pruitt’s rental. “The one thing I can say, if you’re the EPA administrator and two lobbyists change the locks, you’ve got a problem. The bottom line is this doesn’t look good.”

Jordain Carney contributed