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 InhofeOn The Money: Trump to sign border deal, declare emergency to build wall | Senate passes funding bill, House to follow | Dems promise challenge to emergency declaration Trump to sign border deal, declare national emergency Foreign Affairs chairman: US military intervention in Venezuela 'not an option' MORE (R-Okla.) told reporters Wednesday that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA to make formal decision on regulating drinking water contaminant | Utility to close coal plant despite Trump plea | Greens say climate is high on 2020 voters’ minds EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Court tosses challenge to EPA's exclusion of certain scientists from advisory boards 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 TrumpGillibrand backs federal classification of third gender: report Former Carter pollster, Bannon ally Patrick Caddell dies at 68 Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN Ambassador job 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.' ”