Trump White House Staffers Encouraging Republicans Not To Defend Pruitt

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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President Donald Trump’s administration officials are reportedly telling Republican lawmakers to tone down their public defense of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, signaling the White House may be losing confidence in the beleaguered EPA administrator.

Pruitt is receiving mounting criticism for what critics say is unethical behavior and mismanagement. The EPA investigator general’s office is reviewing Pruitt’s use of a security detail while taking personal trips, the IG announced in a letter sent April 17. The EPA leader is already under investigation for taking first-class flights on the taxpayer’s dime, purchasing a $43,000 soundproof phone booth for his office, and giving questionable raises to two employees. The growing inquiry into Pruitt’s conduct began after it was discovered he had been renting a Capitol Hill bedroom for $50 per night from the spouse of a prominent energy lobbyist.

In what could be more bad news for Pruitt, White House officials are warning GOP congressmen and others to ease their defense of him, according to two sources who spoke with Bloomberg. Despite the deluge of criticism from Democrats and other Pruitt opponents in recent weeks, Trump has maintained support for the EPA leader, who has led a successful campaign in rolling back numerous Obama-era regulations.

Pruitt’s first-class travel and frequent use of security stemmed from safety concerns, his office has maintained. While traveling at the airport, Pruitt had become a target of aggressive behavior and foul language from people who were unhappy with his work at the EPA. The EPA administrator’s office felt it necessary to remove him from the public as much as possible to avoid possibly dangerous situations.

As criticism grew, so  did speculation over whether Pruitt had lost favor in Trump’s White House. The president, however, took to social media to defend his work, saying the EPA chief is “doing a great job.”

One-hundred-seventy Democrats in Congress signed a resolution calling for Pruitt to resign. More notably, four Republicans have joined their ranks in calling for him to step down. Growing criticism of the EPA leader will likely come to the forefront, as he is set to speak before Congress later this week, with back-to-back House hearings on Thursday regarding his agency’s budget.

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