Inhofe: Pruitt got 'wake-up call' after showing 'questionable judgment'

Inhofe: Pruitt got 'wake-up call' after showing 'questionable judgment'
© Greg Nash

Sen. James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofePentagon releases report on sexual assault risk Trump privately calls Mattis ‘Moderate Dog’: report Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke MORE (R-Okla.) told reporters Wednesday that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE probably showed “questionable judgment” at times in decisions that have drawn ethical scrutiny, but argued that such scandals are likely behind him.

“There are probably times when he displayed questionable judgment,” said Inhofe, who met with Pruitt, a longtime friend from Oklahoma, Tuesday evening. 

But the senior Republican senator added that Pruitt has gotten the message that he needs to be more cautious.

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“He’s had a wake-up call,” he added. “He came into Washington without knowing Washington.” 

Inhofe, an influential voice on environmental and regulatory issues within the GOP conference, said he requested the meeting with Pruitt because of doubts he was starting to have about the EPA administrator after a wave of ethics allegations.

Inhofe said Wednesday morning that Pruitt explained away the various allegations to his satisfaction and predicted that he will be more careful in the future.

The Oklahoma Republican suggested that Pruitt got tripped up with various ethics charges because he naively didn’t know how some decisions, such as the around-the-clock security detail Pruitt requested or the $43,000 sound-proof booth he had built in his office, would be received.

Inhofe defended Pruitt as the victim of attacks initiated by disgruntled former employees, magnified by liberal groups funded by Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer and covered by a hostile liberal media.

Inhofe said Steyer is a man "with unlimited funds and willing to use these unlimited funds to do anything that would spread the extreme liberal agenda."

“The things that he did are things that the media doesn’t approve of and most of the media is liberal,” he added.

Inhofe also said he went over most of the ethics allegations against Pruitt at the meeting and felt his concerns were settled by Pruitt’s explanations.

“I’m a little embarrassed that I was starting to doubt him,” he said.

He said Pruitt answered his questions “to my satisfaction.”

Inhofe characterized the ethics allegations against Pruitt mostly as “misrepresentation.”

“Most of the accusations, by most I mean two-thirds or so, have come from disgruntled employees who are no longer there anymore,” he said.

Inhofe requested the meeting after Laura Ingraham, a prominent conservative talk-show host, tweeted last week that Pruitt was becoming a drag on President TrumpDonald John TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her MORE and should be removed from his position.

During an interview with Ingraham last week, Inhofe suggested he might pressure Pruitt to step down if ethics charges keep popping up.

“Every day something new comes up,” Inhofe said. “I have taken the position that if that doesn’t stop, I am going to … be in a position where I am going to be forced to say ‘Scott, you are not doing your job.' ”