President TrumpDonald TrumpMcCabe wins back full FBI pension after being fired under Trump Biden's Supreme Court reform study panel notes 'considerable' risks to court expansion Bennie Thompson not ruling out subpoenaing Trump MORE told reporters Friday that he still has confidence in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden makes return to pre-Trump national monument boundaries official Trump-era EPA board member sues over firing EPA bans use of pesticide linked to developmental problems in children MORE amid continuing ethics and spending scandals.
Asked by CNN’s Ryan Nobles at a White House meeting with Pruitt, automaker executives and others whether he has confidence in the EPA head, Trump responded, simply, “Yes, I do.”
Pruitt was sitting two spots away from Trump at the time.
Pruitt has been at the center of a slew of ethical and spending controversies in recent months, including over a $50-per-night condo rental last year from a lobbyist, a security detail that has cost taxpayers more than $3 million, a $43,000 soundproof booth for his office, frequent first-class travel on the government’s dime and more.
But Trump has thus far repeatedly stood by the embattled EPA chief. Pruitt’s aggressive deregulatory agenda — including ongoing work to roll back global warming rules for cars — has continued to please conservatives and Trump.
“The president is pleased with the job that he is doing as EPA administrator," White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters on Thursday. "However the issues that have been raised — I think you guys are all familiar with — they have raised some concerns and we are hopeful and expecting that Administrator Pruitt will be able to answer those.”
Reporters were allowed into the room for a brief portion of Trump’s meeting with automaker heads on Friday, enough time for Trump to speak and other attendees to introduce themselves.
Trump told reporters the meeting would be both about corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards and his desire to have more cars built in the United States. The EPA and Department of Transportation are working to ease fuel economy rules going forward, and a leaked proposal would freeze standards in 2020 for six years.
“We’re working on CAFE standards, environmental controls,” Trump said. “We’re working on how to build more cars in the United States. We have a great capacity for building. We’re importing a lot of cars, and we want a lot of those cars to be made in the United States.”
Trump said he is happy that many manufacturers are investing in the United States and creating jobs, which he attributed to the Republican tax overhaul passed last year.
He specifically called out Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne for that company’s plans to build a plant in Michigan.
“Thank you, you’re moving to Michigan, from Mexico. That we like,” Trump said. “Now he’s my favorite man in the world.”
Trump added that “we have other incentives coming” to promote domestically produced cars.
Updated at 12:53 p.m.