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 InhofeSenate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump declares 'case closed' as text messages raise new questions Top House Democrat: Trump did 'on camera' what Romney warned about MORE (R-Okla.) told reporters Wednesday that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittSierra Club sues EPA over claim that climate change 'is 50 to 75 years out' EPA on 'forever chemicals': Let them drink polluted water EPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year' 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 TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS 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.' ”