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Trump backs Pruitt amid ethics controversies

Trump backs Pruitt amid ethics controversies
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President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS US raises concerns about Iran's seriousness in nuclear talks MORE is giving Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittScientific integrity, or more hot air? OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden proposes billions for electric vehicles, building retrofitting| EPA chief to replace Trump appointees on science advisory panels | Kerry to travel to UAE, India to discuss climate change EPA chief to replace Trump appointees on science advisory panels MORE a vote of confidence, despite the mounting ethics troubles that are causing headaches for the administration.

"I hope he's going to be great,” Trump told reporters during a meeting with Baltic state leaders.

A White House official said Trump phoned Pruitt on Monday night.

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The president told the EPA chief to “keep your head up, keep fighting” and that “we have your back,” according to multiple media reports.

White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE called Pruitt Tuesday morning to reiterate Trump’s message.

The calls come amid a flurry of negative headlines for Pruitt. The Atlantic reported Monday that Pruitt used an obscure legal provision to bypass the White House and give raises to two top staffers.

That came on the heels of a Washington Post report that the EPA considered a $100,000 per month private jet lease for Pruitt, who already faces an inspector general probe into alleged travel abuses.

Pruitt is also under scrutiny for a $50 per month condo lease linked to lobbyists whose clients later received approval for a pipeline expansion plan. The lobbyists and the EPA have denied any wrongdoing.

The disclosures have prompted calls from lawmakers for additional investigations into Pruitt’s living situation, and some have demanded his resignation.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has asked Pruitt for information on his rental agreement, and Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are asking GOP leaders to open a probe into Cabinet travel controversies, including Pruitt’s.

Trump has already parted ways with two Cabinet officials who were beset by ethics problems: Veterans Affairs Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinBiden's nominee for VA secretary isn't a veteran — does it matter? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Congress slogs toward COVID-19 relief, omnibus deal A crisis that unites veterans MORE and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom PriceThomas (Tom) Edmunds PriceBiden health nominee faces first Senate test Focus on cabinet nominees' effectiveness and expertise, not just ideology Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention MORE.

But the president is said to be pleased with the job Pruitt has done in rolling back environmental rules and regulations, one of Trump's core campaign promises.

Pruitt is announcing Tuesday that the administration will roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.

Still, it’s not clear how long Pruitt will enjoy Trump’s confidence. The White House denied Trump had plans to oust national security adviser H.R. McMaster one week before he replaced him with John Bolton.

Updated at 12:42 p.m.