Disgraced outgoing EPA Director Scott Pruitt has had one of the most scandal-ridden tenures in the history of presidential appointments. In just a year and a half, his remarkable panoply of ethical and legal violations ranges from corrupt self-dealing to open lying to criminal violations of records acts and much more.
People of good conscience who believe that the Environmental Protection Agency should not be protecting the environment rather than doing the bidding of polluting companies are, of course, furious with Pruitt’s unrelenting sabotage of the agency’s mission. Pruitt’s insistence on using his position to dismantle the agency itself is related to many of his ethical violations: he had to hide his meetings and even his calendars to cover up his collusion with industry executives.
But pressing as the issues of climate change and the environment are from a moral perspective, these are also political questions. The left and the right have differing views of what constitutes environmental protection, and elections have consequences: everyone knew that if Trump got elected, he would do his best to hobble agencies like the EPA.
But Pruitt’s lawbreaking is beyond left and right. His crimes are so outlandish, numerous and egregious that failing to prosecute and punish him would set a horrible precedent for future appointees of any political persuasion.
For an administration so supposedly dedicated to “law and order,” it has breathtaking disregard for white collar scofflawery and corruption. It is highly unlikely that Pruitt will face accountability from a Justice department headed by Jeff Sessions.
When Democrats come back into power, there will be overwhelming pressure to look forward, not backward and to forgive all past transgressions. That cannot be allowed to happen. Not for Trump and not for Pruitt. Justice requires accountability.