As The Scandals Mount, Conservatives Turn On Scott Pruitt One of Pruitt's closest political allies in Congress said he would call for the EPA chief to step down if his ethical scandals don't stop.
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As The Scandals Mount, Conservatives Turn On Scott Pruitt

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As The Scandals Mount, Conservatives Turn On Scott Pruitt

As The Scandals Mount, Conservatives Turn On Scott Pruitt

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/619934982/620103417" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The ice underneath Scott Pruitt is getting thinner. The administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency has been under scrutiny for months as a list of alleged ethics problems has grown longer and more complex. Through it all, President Trump and many conservatives have defended Pruitt. That's starting to change, as NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: This is an old Washington story reworked for the Trump era. Scott Pruitt wants to remake EPA as a business-friendly, less regulatory agency, but what gets the headlines is the succession of ethics issues - the $43,000 soundproof booth for his office; the sweetheart deal, renting a room from the wife of an EPA lobbyist; the efforts by Pruitt's staff to line up a job for his wife.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE LAURA INGRAHAM SHOW")

LAURA INGRAHAM: He's hurting the president.

OVERBY: Talk show host Laura Ingraham.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE LAURA INGRAHAM SHOW")

INGRAHAM: If you want to drain the swamp, you got to have people in it who forgo personal benefits and don't send your aides around doing personal errands on the taxpayer dime. Otherwise you make everybody else look bad.

OVERBY: The tipping point seemed to come when Pruitt reversed his stand on the ethanol program which Midwestern states like Iowa cherish. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican and a defender of ethanol, said Pruitt is as swampy as you get. Here's Ernst on MSNBC last Thursday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JONI ERNST: I think the president needs to have a really tough discussion with administrator Scott Pruitt and say, you need to get yourself in line, or you're going to go.

OVERBY: The same day, Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana blasted Pruitt on CNN.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN KENNEDY: But he's acting like a moron. If you can't use good judgment and put taxpayers first, it's time to find another line of work.

OVERBY: President Trump likes it when his appointees shake things up. He'd been giving Pruitt his full endorsement. But on Friday, he hedged.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, Scott Pruitt is doing a great job within the walls of the EPA. I mean, we're setting records. Outside he's being attacked very viciously by the press. And I'm not saying that he's blameless, but we'll see what happens.

OVERBY: Next up, the American Future Fund. The conservative nonprofit group rolled out a TV ad for the upper Midwest, ethanol country. It's the kind of treatment the fund usually gives liberal Democrats.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Scott Pruitt is a swamp monster. Mr. President, you know what to do.

TRUMP: You're fired.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The fight for the good of the country, Pruitt must go.

OVERBY: The conservative magazine National Review called for Pruitt's departure, and yesterday came possibly the hardest blow of all from a home state friend of Pruitt's, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe. He was being interviewed by Laura Ingraham.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE LAURA INGRAHAM SHOW")

JIM INHOFE: I'm afraid my good friend Scott Pruitt has done some things that really surprise me.

OVERBY: Inhofe kept going about Pruitt's ethics problems.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE LAURA INGRAHAM SHOW")

INHOFE: They upset me as much as they upset you. And I think something needs to happen to change that. One of those alternatives would be for him to leave that job.

OVERBY: Former congressman, now lobbyist Tom Davis said all of this fits a Washington pattern.

TOM DAVIS: Scott's made some really powerful enemies in this town. And they just - they've got their jaws in, and they're not going to let up.

OVERBY: And it's true that some of the ethics stories began with a treasure trove of EPA emails that environmental groups got through Freedom of Information requests. But the emails only documented the conduct. Again, Tom Davis.

DAVIS: It looks to me like the snowball is rolling down the hill, and it's just gathering more and more as it comes down. I don't know what he does to reverse it at this point.

OVERBY: Davis said that when you come to Washington to do public service, you do public service. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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