OKLAHOMA CITY – Before Scott Pruitt headed off to Washington to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, he made a national name for himself as Oklahoma’s Attorney General suing the agency for its efforts to regulate toxins and pollution. Now Pruitt is leaving the EPA under his own cloud of suspicion.
Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned Thursday after nearly a year and a half on the job. Pruitt has become embroiled in more than a dozen scandals relating to his use of his cabinet position, spending millions of taxpayer dollars and cozy lobbyist relationships.
In his resignation letter to President Trump, Pruitt touted “the transformative work that is occurring,” but said he was stepping down because of “unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”
Pruitt was narrowly confirmed by the senate as EPA chief. Both of Oklahoma’s Republican senators, Jim Inhofe and James Lankford, supported Pruitt’s nomination.
“And I think he’s going to go after it,” said Lankford on February 16, 2017 during a senate debate on Pruitt’s nomination. “And to be able to be an excellent administrator in the days ahead.”
But in the days, weeks and months following Pruitt’s confirmation, scandals built. He’s currently under investigation for multiple ethics violations because of controversial spending, among them: an unprecedented 24/7 security detail, first-class air travel, a trip to Morocco arranged by a friend and lobbyist, an upgrade lease for a high-end SUV, a soundproof phone booth, bio-metric locks and sweeping for listening devices in his office. All told, Pruitt has spent nearly $4 million in taxpayer money.
His resignation Thursday comes just day after CNN reported that an EPA whistleblower said Pruitt and his aides have kept “secret” calendars and schedules to hide meetings or calls with industry representatives.
News 4 reached out to Lankford’s office for comment on Pruitt’s resignation. A spokesperson said Thursday evening the senator “…is not available for media interviews on Scott Pruitt” and does not plan on making any kind of statement on Pruitt’s resignation.
The office of Lankford’s senate counterpart, Inhofe, did send out a statement, saying in part Pruitt ended “the burdensome regulations that have stifled economic growth across the country” but didn’t mention the scandals that surrounded Pruitt.
The EPA will now be led by Pruitt’s deputy, former Inhofe staffer and former coal industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler.
“I think what you see with Scott Pruitt is not any one thing takes him down, but it`s pretty much death by a thousand cuts. It`s a hard town,” said Pruitt friend, former Democratic Oklahoma Attorney General and Flash Point commentator Mike Turpen, who supported Trump’s tapping of Pruitt to lead the EPA in Washington.
“Last year, you said that ‘one of the best things that Trump has done is pick Scott Pruitt,’ do you stand by those words?”
“Then, I believed, and I still believe, that it was of the best things that Trump did,” said Turpen on Trump taking a chance on the Oklahoman.
“I’m disappointed for Scott Pruitt, I’m disappointed in Scott Pruitt to a certain extent,” he said. “But I`m really disappointed for the state of Oklahoma, too.”
With Pruitt’s resignation, he is one of two Oklahomans to have served in a presidential cabinet. The last was Tulsan Patrick Hurley, who served as the Secretary of War more than 80 years ago.