Allies of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt have a stark message for President Donald Trump: Remove Pruitt and your agenda will come to a grinding halt, emboldening your opponents.
Democrats and environmental activists are increasingly calling for Pruitt’s removal over mounting ethics concerns, including his previous living arrangement and giving employees raises over White House objections.
Trump and Pruitt have enjoyed a close working relationship. Trump called Pruitt on Monday to tell him “we’ve got your back,” but since then the White House said Trump is “not” okay with the administrator’s short-term lease with the wife of a D.C. lobbyist.
“We’re reviewing the situation. When we have had a chance to have a deeper dive on it, we’ll let you know the outcomes of that,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday. Axios reports Trump has his “finger in the wind” on the matter.
But conservatives are rallying to Pruitt’s defense, pointing out that, should he leave EPA, Trump’s deregulatory agenda would grind to a halt — playing into the hands of anti-Trumpers.
“That is really what would happen if Pruitt was asked to leave,” Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Pyle headed Trump’s Energy Department transition team in 2016.
“It would take months for the Senate to confirm somebody, and whoever they confirm would be more like Christine Todd Whitman than Pruitt,” said Pyle, referring to the former New Jersey governor and EPA chief under President George W. Bush.
“It’d be like removing your star wide receiver in the middle of the game. It would slow down the process and make it harder for the administration to achieve their objectives,” Pyle said.
Pruitt has aggressively rolled back Obama administration EPA regulations, including the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the U.S. rule. EPA’s year-in-review report claimed up to $1 billion in regulations were repealed in Pruitt’s first year.
Conservative pundits also came to Pruitt’s defense, pointing out the administrator’s success in rolling back regulations and reforming EPA science policies make him a prime target for Democrats.
“Scott Pruitt and his team are doing an outstanding job implementing President Trump’s ambitious de-regulatory agenda, which is designed to restore robust growth to resource and energy-intensive manufacturing industries that have been stagnant for the past decade,” said Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Should Pruitt be removed, he has no Trump-appointed successor in place. Andrew Wheeler, the nominee to be Pruitt’s number two, still awaits Senate approval, and the career official acting in Wheeler’s place is also set to retire.
“You’d have a caretaker who’d be less emboldened to unwind the previous president’s climate power grab,” Pyle said.
Ebell said Pruitt’s departure would “definitely slow down the progress being made” on clawing back Obama-era climate and energy regulations.
“That’s why I don’t think Scott Pruitt is going anywhere,” Ebell told TheDCNF. Ebell headed Trump’s EPA transition team in 2016.
However, news reports suggest more negative headlines could change Trump’s mind about Pruitt. Pruitt opponents in the White House and the bureaucracy suggest more negative stories are coming.
Democrats and activists behind the “Boot Pruitt” campaign are just getting started. They will file more records requests and work with EPA employees to push any negative news about the former Oklahoma attorney general.
“The environmental movement in total is all in for the removal of Scott Pruitt,” Lukas Ross, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told Bloomberg. “I think you are going to see escalating pressure in the coming days, especially on the Senate side, to get members to commit publicly that Pruitt should be fired.”
Bloomberg reports that environmentalists “are scouring Pruitt’s real estate transactions, records from his time as Oklahoma’s attorney general and documentation of his travel for any tantalizing detail.”
“What is clearly taking place is a smear campaign by the environmental left and mainstream media, in part,” said Pyle.
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