DIRTY DEEDS: 13 Reasons Why Trump’s Mr. Clean Scott Pruitt Might End Up in Jail
Two years in and Pruitt already has a record number of criminal inquiries
Scott Pruitt was always a controversial choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. From disputing the scientific consensus on climate change to even refusing to believe in the “theory” of evolution, Pruitt represents the anti-science agenda of the Republican Party.
What makes him particularly worse, though, is the number of criminal investigations he is facing while in office. Writing for “The MaddowBlog” on MSNBC, Steve Benen has found 10 separate probes being conducted into Pruitt’s affairs. Let me go through the list for you:
1 & 2. Condo Rental
Arguably the most blatantly corrupt action of all the violations here, in 2017 Pruitt spent five and a half months living in a Washington lobbyist’s condo for $50/night. Though the agency claims otherwise, this is clearly an example of a federal official taking a gift, violating the Titles of Nobility Clause in the U.S. Constitution. Both the House Oversight Committee and Government Accountability Office (GAO) are looking into the matter.
3 & 4. EPA Travel Costs
Back in March 2018, it was reported that Pruitt had cost taxpayers $163,000 through his various travel flights last year. The anger has since prompted the Inspector General of the EPA to look into the matter. However, the overuse of taxpayer flights has not been limited to the EPA. After the agency refused to turn over Pruitt’s government waivers, the House Oversight Committee, led by Chairman Trey Gowdy, also delved into it.
5. Cattle Propaganda
In August 2017, Pruitt made the unwise choice to convince members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association to lobby for a revision of the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule. As The Hill’s Timothy Cama wrote, it was unwise because the EPA is “prohibited by appropriations legislation from using its resources to lobby Congress on ongoing legislative matters or to fund propaganda.” This, in turn, has caused the GAO to review the matter.
6. Meeting with Coal Miners
In December 2017, the Democratic Party revealed that the EPA’s Inspector General was looking into a meeting Pruitt had had with the National Mining Association (NMA) in April 2017. As the NMA is a trade organization that represents coal miners, Pruitt reportedly asked them to persuade President Trump to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. If proven true, this would constitute a violation of anti-lobbying laws, explaining why the GAO is interested in digging into it.
7. Morocco Trip
In December 2017, Pruitt traveled to Morocco to promote natural gas. The problem is neither he, nor the EPA, have any authority on natural gas exports, with that duty falling to the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Because of this, the Inspector General is looking into his actions.
8 & 9. Security Expenses
Pruitt apparently thinks himself so valuable that he has dramatically increased his 24-hour security detail. The New York Times reported in April 2018 that his security staff is three times larger than previous EPA Administrators, and is consequently costing taxpayers about $3 million/year. This has not only prompted the Inspector General’s Office to start three separate investigations, but also the House Oversight Committee.
10 & 11. The Phone Booth
Pruitt’s paranoia and nostalgia combined for the ultimate gaff: a $43,000 soundproof phone booth installed in his office. The catch was this purchase wasn’t quite legal as, according to the GAO, it violated federal spending laws by significantly exceeding the $5,000 refurnishing budget of agency heads. Luckily, the Office of Management and Budget is helping the GAO with the investigation.
12. Staff Raises
The Safe Drinking Water Act, signed into law in 1974 by President Gerald Ford, has a small provision in it that allows the Administrator of the EPA to hire up to 30 additional people without Congressional or White House approval. Pruitt decided to abuse this aspect by giving two of his staffers transferred over from Oklahoma significant pay raises. At the request of Senate Democrats, the Office of the Inspector General began a probe into the matter in March 2018.
13. EPA Purge
One of Pruitt’s more notorious actions was banning scientists from serving on the EPA’s science advisory panels if they received grants from the EPA. This was designed to remove regulation-advocates from having a role in the agency’s decisions. Thankfully, the GAO agreed to investigate Pruitt’s practices in March 2018.
Image by Gage Skidmore/Flickr