Politics

Trump Backs Reg-Slashing Scott Pruitt as Angry Liberals Circle

President and White House chief of staff John Kelly offered EPA administrator their support amid controversies over travel expenses

President Donald Trump maintains his confidence in Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has killed hundreds of excessive bureaucratic regulations, according to multiple reports Tuesday.

Pruitt incurred ire in the liberal mainstream media most recently over reports of high travel and security expenses funded with taxpayer dollars, the $50 per night he spent staying in a lobbyist’s wife’s condo for a few months in 2017 and the news that he procured raises for two of his staffers against White House protocol.

Although Pruitt’s two predecessors under former President Barack Obama also accrued high travel expenses during their EPA tenures, the media devoted virtually no coverage to the issue.

Trump called Pruitt Monday night to tell him to “keep your head up, keep fighting” and “we have your back,” an unnamed White House official confirmed to news outlets. White House chief of staff John Kelly also called Pruitt on Tuesday to back up Trump’s message to the EPA administrator.

Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager, said Tuesday on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” that he had met with Trump recently and believes Pruitt is in the president’s good graces.

“From what I’m told, both General Kelly and President Trump have assured Scott Pruitt that he is staying on for right now, and that will continue,” Lewandowski said. “I believe that General Kelly has been waiting for an investigative — an IG report to come out of the EPA. And so until that happens, I believe Administrator Pruitt is safe in his position.”

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Kelly reportedly is awaiting the findings of an EPA inspector general (IG) report on Pruitt’s conduct before making a decision on Pruitt’s future, Politico reported Monday.

Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) wrote to the IG, urging the office to launch an additional probe into the condo controversy.

The tax-paid expenses Pruitt has compiled include $68,000 in air travel — some of it in first-class seats — hotel stays and other expenses from August 2017 through February 2018, according to documents requested by House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and obtained by The Washington Post. Pruitt’s trip to Italy to attend the G-7 summit and tour the Vatican in June cost $120,000.

Related: Hypocrisy Reigns Among Media Slamming of EPA’s Pruitt for Travel Costs

But the same outlets that frowned upon Pruitt’s expenses showed a marked lack of interest in comparing Pruitt’s travel expenses with his two EPA predecessors, Gina McCarthy and Lisa Jackson.

McCarthy’s international travels between 2013 and 2016 cost taxpayers $629,743 — while Jackson’s international travel costs between 2009 and 2012 totaled $332,113. By comparison, Pruitt’s 2017 international travels cost $160,000.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the Washington Free Beacon in a statement in March, “The double standard couldn’t be more clear: Under Barack Obama’s EPA, the media chose not to report on expenditures to protect the EPA administrator for international travel or the costs of their trips, but under the Trump administration the costs to protect our government officials [are] somehow scandalous.”

But Pruitt had been reviled by liberals and media members ever since Trump announced his nomination in December 2016. Pruitt, who served as Oklahoma’s attorney general until Trump tapped him to head the EPA, sued the EPA often during his time in Oklahoma.

When Trump nominated Pruitt, he said in a statement that Pruitt would “reverse” the EPA’s “out-of-control, anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs, while also undermining our incredible farmers and many other businesses and industries at every turn.”

When Trump nominated Pruitt, he said in a statement that Pruitt would “reverse” the EPA’s “out-of-control, anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs …”

In response, Pruitt said, “The American people are tired of seeing billions of dollars drained from our economy due to unnecessary EPA regulations, and I intend to run this agency in a way that fosters both responsible protection of the environment and freedom for American businesses.”

Such a commitment didn’t sit very well with environmental activists and their allies in the media and government, especially after Pruitt started following through on his promises. “In one year, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spearheaded 22 deregulatory actions that could save the American people more than $1 billion in regulatory costs,” a recent agency report said.

But Lewandowski noted on Fox News that Trump deserves to have Cabinet members and administration officials who “understand the president” and are “on his agenda.”

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

(photo credit, article image: Scott Pruitt, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

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