02:14 - Source: CNN
Troubles mount for Trump's EPA chief
CNN  — 

Scott Pruitt’s time as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency seems nearly over.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump was asked about the embattled Pruitt and offered this cryptic thought: “I hope he’s going to be great.”

Then on Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked whether Trump was “OK” with a deal Pruitt received on rent for a room in a condo owned by an energy lobbyist.

“The President is not (OK with it),” said Sanders. “We are reviewing the situation. When we have had the chance to have done a deeper dive on that we will let you know the outcomes of that. We are currently revising that at that White House.”


Meanwhile, Pruitt apologized just hours before Sanders’ statement. No, he wasn’t apologizing for the whole room-rent thing. He was apologizing for the fact that someone in his office – apparently unbeknownst to him – sought to bypass the White House to secure large pay raises for two members of his staff.

When asked why he gave the staffers raises, Pruitt told Fox News’ Ed Henry on Wednesday, “I did not.”

“My staff did, and I found out about that yesterday and I changed it,” he continued.


So, here’s the thing. We know Trump likes how Pruitt has run the EPA since being chosen as its administrator. He’s drastically scaled back environmental regulations and was a major champion of Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

“The President thinks he is doing a good job, particularly on the deregulation front,” Sanders acknowledged on Wednesday.

“But again, we take this seriously and we are looking into it,” Sanders said when asked if Trump had faith in Pruitt.

Running counter to Trump’s approval for what Pruitt has done at the EPA is the fact the environmental chief has created an absolute avalanche of negative headlines for Trump’s administration. Before the rent fiasco and the attempted pay raises, there were the headlines about the tens of thousands of dollars Pruitt spent flying on government planes and in first class, due, he argued, to security threats from people who were unhappy with the changes he had implemented at EPA.

There’s nothing Trump hates more than negative press that he himself doesn’t cause. And Pruitt’s answer on the attempted raises – I was clueless about my staff trying to secure $80,000 in raises for themselves! – isn’t exactly a great defense.

Yes, Trump apparently called Pruitt earlier this week to tell him that the White House was behind him. But that was before the latest pay raise debacle.

The Trump statement on Tuesday, coupled with Sanders’ thoughts Wednesday, sends a very clear signal that the boss isn’t happy with Pruitt. And when Donald Trump isn’t happy with people, he fires them. Or more accurately, given recent history, has chief of staff John Kelly tell them to look out for a tweet from Trump sometime soon.

We know – because Trump told us a few weeks back – that the President is still eyeing a few more changes to his Cabinet before he is fully satisfied. It’s hard at this point to see how Pruitt isn’t the next one to fall.

The only complicating factor? Trump has struggled – particularly in recent months – to convince people to take top-level jobs in his administration due to the ever-present chaos on display at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Finding a Pruitt replacement could be tough. Getting that person confirmed through a narrowly divided Senate with the midterm elections approaching might be even harder.

Those issues might delay Pruitt’s removal. But at this point, it appears only a delay to the inevitable.