EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned, citing “unprecedented” and “unrelenting attacks” on him and his family in a letter to President Donald Trump. Democrats have demanded his departure for months.
Trump confirmed Pruitt’s resignation on Twitter, but little was known about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief’s reasons for departure until the full text of his letter to the president was provided to the media. After praising Trump and the “transformative work” his administration has done, Pruitt says:
“However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”
Even before Pruitt’s resignation letter became public, critics of the Trump administration were claiming credit for his departure and pointing to calls by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) to “get a crowd together, confront Trump cabinet members” in public spaces.
A conservative watchdog has called for Waters to be investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics for breaching the House rules of conduct.
On Monday, Pruitt was accosted at a Washington, DC restaurant by an area schoolteacher.
Holding her two-year-old son, Kristin Mink urged the EPA head to resign “because of what you’re doing to the environment in our country,” and “before your scandals push you out.”
The media have hounded the White House about Pruitt for months, with every news briefing containing a question about some action of his or another. One story accused him of renting a Washington, DC townhouse for $50 a night from an energy industry lobbyist. Another said his police escort used sirens to clear traffic before his motorcade. He reportedly gave two staffers who followed him to DC from Oklahoma major pay raises without White House approval. One of the reported scandals concerned the cost of Pruitt’s security detail, which was protecting him from activists and protesters.
Pruitt is the third Trump Cabinet official to be ousted over ethics complaints. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned last year after it was reported he spent taxpayer funds on charter flights. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin departed in March after the agency’s inspector-general said he improperly accepted a gift of Wimbledon tickets and brought his wife along on a working trip to Europe.
Democrats had been gunning for Pruitt even before the former Oklahoma attorney general was nominated to head the EPA, however, mobilizing protesters on social networks by using the hashtag #PollutingPruitt and accusing him of having ties with the oil and coal industries.
As the head of the EPA, Pruitt presided over the substantial roll-back of environmental regulations, as well as the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords.
After finally getting Pruitt’s political scalp, the opposition party demanded more – ironically adopting Trump’s own campaign rhetoric about the Washington establishment.
“One down,” tweeted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), “dozens more to go until we’ve drained the swamp of the Trump Admin’s toxic culture and corruption.”
“Took you long enough. Still a very long way to go to fully drain the swamp,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) tweeted at Trump.
The Democrats’ political guns are now aiming at Pruitt’s replacement, acting administrator Andrew Wheeler, a “coal lobbyist who has slammed climate science” but also “trashed Trump in a 2016 Facebook post,” per Coral Davenport of the New York Times.