scott pruitt
Credit: Gage Skidmore/flickr

There are many amazing and confounding things happening in the news but this is one of the most confounding of all.

President Trump told reporters Friday that he still has confidence in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administration Scott Pruitt amid continuing ethics and spending scandals.

Asked by CNN’s Ryan Nobles at a White House meeting with Pruitt, automaker executives and others whether he has confidence in the EPA head, Trump responded, simply, “yes, I do.”

Pruitt was sitting two spots away from Trump at the time.

I’ve lost track of all the reasons why Pruitt should lose his job. Commentators long ago ran out of anti-superlatives to describe the degree of his corruption and poor judgment. I can remember some really bad Cabinet members and department heads. James Watt comes to mind, for example. But no one has ever compiled a record like Pruitt.

This doesn’t even begin to cover it:

Pruitt has been at the center of a slew of ethical and spending controversies in recent months, including over a $50-per-night condo rental last year from a lobbyist, a security detail that has cost taxpayers more than $3 million, a $43,000 soundproof booth for his office, frequent first-class travel on the government’s dime and more.

The controversies section of his Wikipedia page is only modestly shorter than a Dostoyevsky novel. My favorite remains the housing controversy but your tastes may differ.

The president has fired half (more than half?) of the people he’s appointed to high positions in his administration but he refuses to can Pruitt despite the bad press he causes nearly every day. It’s not like someone else couldn’t come in and take a sledgehammer to environmental rules and regulations without being a constant source of embarrassment. I keep hearing Republicans say that they like the job Pruitt is doing, but is there some reason he needs to be the person doing it?

I guess he really excels at triggering the liberals. That’s the only explanation I have for why he survives. If I were running the White House I would have fired him for this if nothing else:

In April 2018, it became known that Pruitt had raised the salaries of two of his closest aides whom he’d brought from Oklahoma, despite rejection of the submitted increases by the White House. Pruitt sought to increase the salary from $107,435 to $164,200 for one aide and from $86,460 to $114,590 for the other. The provision was intended to allow the EPA administrator to hire specialists into unique roles in especially stressed offices. Instead, Pruitt circumvented the process by using a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act which allowed him to autonomously determine the salaries for the two aides. The compensation of the two staffers was substantially higher than the salaries of staff in similar positions in the Obama administration. The method of raising their pay also allowed both to avoid signing ethics pledges meant to deter conflicts of interest, an issue raised by Democratic Senators Tom Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse for consideration of an investigation. While Pruitt claimed in an April 4, 2018 televised interview with Fox News correspondent Ed Henry that he didn’t know anything about the raises to his two close aides, the Washington Post reported on April 5, 2018 that two EPA officials and a White House official told The Post that Pruitt instructed staff to award substantial pay boosts to both women, who had worked in different roles for him in Oklahoma.

Yet, Trump obviously doesn’t care.

I wonder what it would take for him to lose confidence in Pruitt.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at