Scott Pruitt, the most scandal-ridden member of the scandal-ridden Trump Cabinet, spent money on stuff he didn’t need, fired and demoted staffers who opposed him, and used the ones who remained to help him track down used mattresses and hotel lotions.
Though President Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One Thursday that there was “no final straw” that led to Pruitt's resignation, it turned out to be a death by a thousand cuts for Pruitt.
In the end, he “lost the war of attrition," a senior Trump administration source told Axios on Friday. But he gained so much in the short time he was in office, including first-class travel, a $43,000 soundproof booth, and a summer job for his daughter.
Here’s just a sample of the many scandals that ultimately drove him out of office.
Massive spending on stuff he didn’t need
Over the course of Pruitt’s first year in office, he spent some $3 million in taxpayer cash on his round-the-clock security detail, which afforded him a level of security unknown to prior EPA administrators.
That security, he said, was a response to threats he was getting — one of which involved a mustache drawn on a Newsweek cover that featured Pruitt, according to Buzzfeed.
He also cited those threats to justify his expensive first-class travel, after one passenger in coach told him he was “fucking up the environment.” Things were so dire that his office even considered a lease on a private jet, according to the Washington Post.
Not only was his personal safety exorbitantly costly, his privacy was too. He spent $43,000 on a soundproof booth, which the Government Accountability Office found he had purchased illegally.
He spent on his appearance, too. He bought himself some pricey pens, and wanted the EPA’s challenge coin stripped of the agency’s emblem, which Pruitt thought looked like a pot leaf, according to the New York Times.
His car wasn’t quite big enough, so he bought a new one, which reportedly featured bulletproof seat covers. And when he was driving around town, he insisted on using sirens to get to dinners at an upscale French spot in D.C., called Le Diplomate, even though the use of sirens in a motorcade is a privilege that’s usually reserved for the president.
Cozy relationships with lobbyists
Pruitt’s always been close with the oil and gas lobby. Back in Oklahoma, where he served as attorney general, he sued the EPA some 14 times, and sent letters provided to him by the oil and gas lobby to the federal government.
Pruitt stayed tight with corporate interests when he joined the EPA.
He let lobbyists plan a controversial trip to Morocco, he got tickets to the Rose Bowl through a prominent energy PR executive, and stacked the EPA’s science advisory board with people tied to industry.
He was so cozy with lobbyists, in fact, that he lived with one right after he took the job. One of the biggest scandals to roil his tenure at EPA involved his $50-a-month rental agreement with an industry lobbyist who had business in front of the agency. The lobbyists sought favors from Pruitt, while Pruitt — and his daughter were — living in his house.
Pruitt wasn’t a good house guest: the lobbyist eventually changed the locks to keep him out of the house.
He’s a climate-denier — and his policies reflected that
As a prominent advocate for the Trump administration’s attempt to roll back Obama-era policies, Pruitt tried to undo anything the EPA had put forward in the last decade with the goal of addressing global warming.
He floated the idea of having military-style “red team–blue team” debates, with the goal of creating a public perception that the science underpinning our understanding of climate change isn’t settled. (It is.) Those debates, in turn, could have fueled a move to dismantle the agency’s legal requirement to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
And he did push for dismantling the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, the only rule that tried to keep the U.S. within the greenhouse gas emissions limits agreed to in the U.N.’s Paris Agreement, which he successfully pushed for the U.S. to back out of.
He also pushed for new requirements on the type of science the agency could use in rulemaking, misleadingly referring to scientific studies that didn’t make all of its data public “secret science,” and ruling that it shouldn’t be used to craft EPA policy. Trouble is, any public health study shields personal health records from the public. That doesn’t that those studies aren’t peer-reviewed — and valid.
A whole lot of grift
During his tenure as EPA chief, Pruitt wielded his influence to try to solicit favors for his family and friends.
In May of 2017, Pruitt instructed a staffer to send an email to the CEO of Chick-fil-A, asking for a quick phone chat. The subject of that phone chat: getting Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife. He used his position to get his daughter a job at the White House, and tried to use his influence, and his staff’s time, to get her into law school.
He’s also got a favorite brand of moisturizer which he liked so much that he made his very pricey security detail drive him around town to get it.
That’s not the only weird thing he asked his staff to do — he also had his scheduler inquire in September about getting Pruitt a used “Trump Home Luxury Plush Euro Pillow Top” mattress from a Trump hotel in D.C.
His selectively bad treatment of employees who opposed him
After employees spoke out about his abuses of power at EPA, Pruitt tried to gather dirt on them. He submitted records requests on numerous employees’ emails, looking for any mention of his name, President Donald Trump’s, or communications with Democrats in Congress that might have been critical of the agency.
He fired staffers who objected to his profligate spending at the agency, including Kevin Chmielewski, a former Trump campaign staffer who became a vocal critic of Pruitt’s.
Pruitt also fired a staffer after she objected to deleting sensitive details from Pruitt’s public calendar, the New York Times reported on Thursday, hours before Pruitt was fired. She thought the deletions might be illegal. Among the calendar items that were altered, was a meeting in Rome with a controversial Cardinal who’s under investigation for sexual assault.
Meanwhile, he allowed one of his top staffers, John Konkus, to moonlight as a media consultant for outside interests. It’s still not known who those interests were — Konkus’s clients were redacted in the documents the EPA released in response to public records requests.
And for staffers loyal to him, he did an end-run around the White House’s personnel office to get them hefty raises. He denied knowledge of the raises — laying the blame on his chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, who accepted it — but emails suggest that he personally signed off on them.
Hiring a coal lobbyist to be his number 2
His most enduring act in the EPA, however, is his hiring of Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist with deep ties to industry and an insider’s understanding of the way Washington works.
Wheeler, formerly Pruitt’s second in command, starts his new job as acting EPA administrator on Monday.
Cover image: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt listens while US President Donald Trump speaks during an Independence Day picnic for military families on the South Lawn of the White House July 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.