White House may oust embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt may be the next member of President Donald Trump‘s administration to be forced out, according to reports, as a flurry of controversies sprung up late Monday.

Pruitt, who has been criticized for his handling of the EPA since he joined the administration, appears to be on the chopping block, with Chief of Staff John Kelly considering firing him, Politico reports. Meanwhile, the White House is said to be investigating how the administrator paid a below-market rate to live in a condo owned by an energy industry lobbyist at the same time the EPA approved a contract with a Canadian company. The administrator has also been criticized for spending more than $100,000 on first-class flights.

There’s a lot to unpack, so here’s what you need to know:

  • Condo-gate: Pruitt reportedly was renting a condominium in Washington—paying only $50 a night—that was linked to energy lobbying firm Williams & Jensen, according to the New York Times. The living arrangements have drawn scrutiny because in March, the EPA signed off on a contract with Enbridge Inc., a Canadian company, to expand a pipeline that transports oil from Canada to the United States. Pruitt and the company have denied any claims of conflict-of-interest, however Don Fox, who worked in the Office of Government Ethics under two presidents, said the situation “causes a reasonable person to question the integrity of the EPA decision,” according to the Times. The White House is said to be reviewing Pruitt’s living arrangements.
  • Giving raises: In March, Pruitt also reportedly asked the White House to give raises to two close aides, according to the Atlantic. Sources told the news outlet the request for raises, which needed to be approved by the Presidential Personnel Office, were denied. So Pruitt reportedly used a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act that allows the EPA administrator to hire up to 30 people without approval and reappointed the two aides, Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp, under the act so he could dictate their new salaries.
  • Next to go?: As the embattled EPA chief continues to draw scrutiny from ethics watchdogs, he may also be facing the ire of the White House. Politico reports that Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, has considered firing Pruitt, who would join a long string of high-ranking officials to leave the administration in the first year-and-a-half of Trump’s presidency. While Pruitt has reportedly pleased the president with his aggressive anti-regulation push in the agency, Kelly is waiting for an EPA inspector general report about his travel expenses before making a serious move to oust him, according to the news outlet.

With the spotlight now on Pruitt, and Trump’s reported distaste for anyone but himself getting attention, Pruitt’s time in the EPA may be numbered.

Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich is a politics staff writer for the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the internet. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).