Energy & Environment

Timeline: The controversies of Scott Pruitt

Greg Nash

President Trump announced on Thursday that he had accepted the resignation of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, capping off months of seemingly unending controversy surrounding the Cabinet member.

Pruitt had been plagued by allegations of ethical violations and questionable management practices at the EPA. By the time he resigned, several of those allegations had become the subjects of federal ethics inquiries. 

The former attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt made a name for himself nationally by battling the EPA during the Obama administration before being tapped by Trump to lead the agency starting in February 2017.

Pruitt was not the first Trump administration official to step down in the face of scandals and controversies. But the fact that he remained in his post for months in spite of the controversies spoke to his close relationship with the president, who praised his “outstanding” work at the EPA in announcing his resignation.

Here’s a timeline of some of the major controversies that Pruitt faced during his tenure at the EPA:

April 12, 2017: Around-the-clock security

The Washington Post reported on a request to provide around-the-clock security for Pruitt. The request was a break from the EPA chief’s predecessors. An agency breakdown of the expenses reported in May 2018 found that the security detail cost nearly $3.5 million in Pruitt’s first year in office.

Sept. 26, 2017: $43K soundproof phone booth

The Washington Post reported that the EPA had entered into a contract worth nearly $25,000 to build a soundproof phone booth for Pruitt. The value was later revised to $43,000. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined in a report released in April that the project violated a governmentwide spending law capping office redecorations and refurnishings at $5,000 without prior notice to lawmakers.

March 21, 2018: $105,000 on first-class flights

Politico reported that Pruitt spent upward of $105,000 on first-class flights during his first year at the EPA. The agency had defended the high-end travel, saying Pruitt’s security detail had made the decision to do so to better protect him.

March 29, 2018: $50-per-night condo deal

ABC News reported that Pruitt had rented a Capitol Hill condo co-owned by the wife of an influential energy lobbyist for much of his first year in office. Bloomberg News later reported that the EPA chief paid $50 for each night he stayed there — far below market rate.

April 3, 2018: Pruitt gives raises to two close aides

The Atlantic reported that Pruitt used an obscure provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act to substantially increase the pay of two close aides after the White House initially dismissed the requests for the raises. Pruitt later told Fox News that he was not aware of the raises, and that once he found out he “changed it.”

May 1, 2018: Third-party help to plan overseas trips

The Washington Post reported that an influential lobbyist helped plan a trip to Morocco for Pruitt. It was later reported that a Washington consultant also sought to plan a trip to Australia for Pruitt, though the trip never came to fruition. Still, the revelations fueled criticism of the EPA chief’s ties to lobbyists and their possible influence at the agency. 

June 4, 2018: Trump International Hotel mattress

Democratic lawmakers revealed that a close aide to Pruitt told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee staffers that Pruitt had sought her help with numerous personal tasks, including searching for housing and trying to secure a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

June 5, 2018: Pruitt sought Chick-fil-A franchise job for wife

Reports surfaced that Pruitt tasked an aide with helping search for a “business opportunity” for his wife with the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A. That revelation surfaced in emails obtained by the environmental group the Sierra Club through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The Washington Post first reported the emails.

June 24, 2018: Special Counsel examines retaliation claims

Politico reported that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel had begun examining allegations that Pruitt retaliated against EPA staffers who had questioned his management and spending decisions. According to that report, at least six staffers were either fired or reassigned within the agency.

July 2, 2018: Pruitt sought fundraising job for wife

The New York Times reported that a former senior aide at the EPA told lawmakers that Pruitt had asked her to help his wife obtain a job as a fundraiser for the Republican Attorneys General Association. The aide reportedly said that when she warned Pruitt that he would have to report his wife’s income on financial disclosures, he told her he would establish a limited liability corporation.

Tags Attorney General of Oklahoma Controversies Donald Trump Donald Trump Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt Scott Pruitt United States Environmental Protection Agency

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