Just before his rally in Montana, President Trump tweeted that his Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned after months of ethics controversies.
The President addressed the resignation while speaking to reporters on his way to Montana — but he didn't mention Pruitt or his controversies during the rally itself. Instead, Trump talked about his upcoming meeting with Russia's Vladimir Putin, next week's NATO summit and how he'd like Sen. Elizabeth Warren to prove her heritage, among other topics.
On board Air Force One on his way to the rally, Trump said it was Pruitt's decision to resign.
The House Oversight Committee will continue to investigate embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt despite his resignation, according to a committee source.
The committee’s probe is the most significant Republican-led investigation into the many scandals that arose during Pruitt’s time heading the EPA.
A separate Democratic source said: “Democrats will continue to investigate because we were just beginning to uncover the extent of these abuses.”
President Trump told reporters on Air Force One EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's decision to resign was “very much up to him."
“He did not want to be a distraction," Trump said. "And I think Scott felt like he was a distraction.”
Trump said there was “no final straw," and said the decision had been in the works “a couple of days" and that they had been "talking about it for a little while."
The President continued:
“Scott Pruitt did an outstanding job inside of the EPA. We’ve gotten rid of record breaking regulations and it’s been really. You know, obviously the controversies with Scott but within the agency we were extremely happy. His deputy has been with me actually a long time. He was very much an early Trump supporter. He was with us on the campaign. He is a very environmental person. He’s a big believer, and he’s going to do a fantastic job.”
Trump said Pruitt will go on to do "great things and he’s going to have a wonderful life, I hope."
Scott Pruitt was embroiled in one ethics controversy after the next.
And for months, President Trump defended his Environmental Protection Agency chief.
Amid the scandals, Trump repeatedly touted Pruitt's work, and his character.
"I think he's a fantastic person," Trump said in April.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, said Scott Pruitt was the worst Environmental Protection Agency chief ever.
In an interview with CNN, Sanders said he was concerned about Pruitt's views on climate change and the environment.
"I think this guy has done incalculable harm to environmental protection in this country," Sanders told CNN. "And he has also ethically challenged."
He said the EPA needs a leader who believes in climate change and will take steps to protect the environment.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley released a statement today about Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's resignation.
In his statement, Grassley of Iowa said Trump made the "right decision" in accepting Pruitt's resignation.
"Administrator Pruitt’s ethical scandals and his undermining of the President’s commitment to biofuels and Midwest farmers were distracting from the agency’s otherwise strong progress to free the nation of burdensome and harmful government regulations. Fewer things are more important for government officials than maintaining public trust. Administrator Pruitt, through his own actions, lost that trust. I hope acting administrator Wheeler views this as an opportunity to restore this Administration’s standing with farmers and the biofuels industry. I’m looking forward to working with acting administrator Wheeler to do just that.”
Several GOP strategists said Scott Pruitt's resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency is a relief.
They said that President Trump's new Supreme Court nominee is going to be a major focus — and one that is good for them — for the next few months. Trump is expected to announce his pick in the coming days. Dragging Pruitt through congressional inquiries would take away from that, they added.
The strategists said they believe the White House can manage a smooth confirmation process for the nominee, and said they are now focused on that goal.
Kristin Mink was having lunch with her son on Monday when she noticed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt with a colleague at Teaism in Penn Quarter and decided to confront him, child in tow.
She then urged him to "resign before your scandals push you out."
In a video of the encounter, Mink cites Pruitt's "slashing strong fuel standards for cars and trucks for the benefits of big corporations" and his "paying about 50 bucks a night to stay in a DC condo that's connected to an energy lobbying firm, while approving their dirty sands pipeline" as reasons for him to resign.
"We deserve to have somebody at the EPA who actually does protect our environment, somebody who believes in climate change and takes it seriously for the benefit of all of us, including our children," Mink tells Pruitt in the video.
Today, Mink spoke to CNN about Pruitt's resignation.
She said initially felt "unrestrained glee" by the news "because that was what I wanted him to do and followed immediately of course by the realization that Trump now gets to appoints somebody else. And we see that it's Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist. So clearly the agenda is not going to be getting any better."
Scott Pruitt’s resignation came as a surprise to many top level employees at the EPA, according to a source familiar with the matter. Top level EPA officials had been preparing for meetings with Pruitt this week, not knowing he’d be resigning today, the source said.
Two other EPA officials said they had no idea Pruitt's resignation was coming today. Like the rest of the country, they found out from Trump's tweets, they said.
Another source, an agency employee, said many staff members and personnel found out from social media or friends. This employee said EPA staff have not received any correspondence or email resignation from Scott Pruitt announcing his departure.