The top House Democrat called for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to step down after a string of recent, high-profile reports calling into question the EPA chief’s decision making.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a written statement on Friday that Pruitt’s tenure “has been a part of the Trump Administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Pruitt must resign.”
In recent weeks, multiple outlets including CNN have detailed such incidents as how Pruitt rented a room in a sweetheart deal from the wife of a lobbyist, directed his security detail to violate a policy on using emergency lights and sirens, and demoted top aides who warned him about potential ethics issues.
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On Thursday, President Donald Trump told reporters he still had confidence in Pruitt, called him “a good man” and said the EPA chief was doing a good job in his post. CNN also reported that the President continued to defend Pruitt because he has considered him as a replacement for another top official Trump has criticized: Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Pruitt denied in an interview with Fox News on Wednesday that he knew anything about efforts to circumvent the White House to approve raises for two top aides at EPA, and said that once he found out about it he put a stop to it. He also said his living arrangement was approved by an EPA ethics official. But that official said in a report obtained by CNN that he was not given all of the facts when making that determination. EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox disputed the demoting allegations Thursday and said in a statement: “This is a group of disgruntled employees who have either been dismissed or reassigned.”
Other Democrats have jumped on Pruitt’s recent controversies. Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire told the Portsmouth Herald on Thursday that Pruitt should step down “because of the inappropriate behavior that has come out about taking money inappropriately from lobbyists, about his travel, some of the other things.”
So far two House Republicans from Florida, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, have called on Pruitt to go, but most other GOP lawmakers have kept mum on the issue.
Pelosi’s push to drive him out may actually give the Oklahoma Republican a boost among those within his own party.
Members of the House and Senate are scattered now, finishing up a two-week spring recess, so few have weighed in on Pruitt’s troubles.
Top Republican aides tell CNN that if Trump decided to fire Pruitt it would be extremely difficult to confirm another conservative EPA administrator to continue carrying out the deregulation agenda he has set in motion during his tenure.
CNN’s Greg Wallace, Pamela Brown and Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.