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Corruption allegations against EPA’s Pruitt reach farcical level
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA) Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill. Aaron Bernstein
By Steve Benen June 6, 2018
As of a few weeks ago, Scott Pruitt, the scandal-plagued administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was facing 14 separate federal investigations. It seemed hard to imagine things getting much worse for the Oklahoma Republican, accused of, among other things, corruption, abused of power, conflicts of interest, and misuse of public resources.
Three months after Scott Pruitt was sworn in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, his scheduler emailed Dan Cathy, chief executive of the fast-food company Chick-fil-A, with an unusual request: Would Cathy meet with Pruitt to discuss “a potential business opportunity”?
A call was arranged, then canceled, and Pruitt eventually spoke with someone from the company’s legal department. Only then did he reveal that the “opportunity” on his mind was a job for his wife, Marlyn.
“The subject of that phone call was an expression of interest in his wife becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee,” company representative Carrie Kurlander told The Washington Post via email.
No, seriously. Donald Trump’s far-right EPA chief used government employees, during work hours, to reach out to the CEO of a fast-food company, all in the hopes of scoring a franchise for his wife.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a longtime Pruitt ally, conceded yesterday that the details look bad, but the Republican senator said he wasn’t yet sure whether to believe the allegations.
The trouble is, we’ve seen the emails. They’re uncontested. The allegations are true. Chick-fil-A has already confirmed the story.
And why is it a big deal that Pruitt misused his cabinet-level position to help advance “a potential business opportunity” for his wife? Because that’s illegal.
As a rule, once cabinet-level officials, already facing 14 federal investigations, are caught engaging in flagrant corruption, they find a defense attorney and exit their posts.
In this case, Pruitt has found his defense attorney, but at least as of this minute, he’s still the head of the EPA.
I recently kicked around possible explanations for Pruitt sticking around, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to wrap one’s head around this. Even other far-right Republicans are giving up on this guy.
The Trump White House’s tolerance for corruption has been obvious for a while, but it’s clearly getting worse.