Less than 48 hours after The New York Times published a lengthy front-page piece detailing Scott Pruitt’s long pattern of ethically dicey moves prior to being named EPA chief, the White House’s defenses of him are clearly softening.
Asked about the series of recent negative headlines on Pruitt, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders responded Monday: “We’re continuing to review a number of the reports that you’ve mentioned, and we’ll let you know if we have any changes on that front.”
Pressed later in the daily briefing on Pruitt, Sanders remained guarded.
“We’re reviewing some of those allegations,” she said again. “However, Administrator Pruitt has done a good job of implementing the president’s policies, particularly on deregulation, making the United States less energy-dependent and becoming more energy-independent. Those are good things. However, the other things certainly are something that we’re monitoring and looking at, and I’ll keep you posted.”
Amid that lukewarm statement of support, Bloomberg reported that White House officials “are cautioning Republican lawmakers and other conservative allies to temper their defense of Scott Pruitt, according to two people familiar with the discussions, in a sign that administration support for the embattled EPA chief may be waning.”
It’s somewhat remarkable that Pruitt is still around at all – given that the past two months have been dominated by stories ranging from Pruitt renting a room in an energy lobbyist’s house for $50 a night to two of his aides seeking to end-run the White House to secure raises.
Trump hates when people who work for him get negative press. It’s why he jettisoned – among others – Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin.
Why hasn’t Pruitt joined that ignominious list yet? Because, as Sanders noted today, he is doing what Trump wants him to do at the EPA.
The Point: It feels like we are reaching critical mass on Pruitt. Trump may like what he is doing at EPA but the President H-A-T-E-S bad headlines. And Pruitt can’t seem to avoid those these days.
Read Monday’s full edition of The Point newsletter.