Scandal-plagued EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigns

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says he has accepted the resignation of scandal-plagued Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt had become a constant source of embarrassment to a president who had entered Washington promising to “Drain the Swamp.”

Pruitt has faced an array of ethical questions about his travel spending, security costs, dealings with industry lobbyists and misuse of government resources.

He had denied wrongdoing in the face of multiple congressional and oversight inquiries.

Despite the scandals, Trump has been approving of Pruitt’s efforts to reduce regulations that the administration says curb business growth. Trump writes on Twitter, “Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job.”

Activists have argued those cuts have endangered the environment.

Trump tweets that Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler will assume the acting administrator position Monday.

House Democrats, fed up with Scott Pruitt’s seemingly endless stream of questionable ethical behavior, are seeking to take the investigation against him to a new level — to the FBI and Department of Justice.

The request was sparked by recent reports that the former EPA administrator had been using his staff to run personal errands, including finding his wife a job, hunting for a Washington apartment and picking up snacks, dry cleaning and hand lotion.

“At the very least, we know that federal ethics laws bar public officials from using their position or staff for private gain. Administrator Pruitt has certainly done just that,” wrote Rep. Don Beyer in a letter to the FBI and Justice Department, which requests an investigation into Pruitt. “Administrator Pruitt directly, and admittedly, used EPA resources to attempt to secure a job for his wife.”

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox referred CNN’s request for comment to Pruitt’s outside counsel.

In some cases, Pruitt used his unprecedented around-the-clock security staff to do personal favors. Pruitt has 19 protection officers on his staff, costing taxpayers $3.5 million over the past year, but his justification that it’s because of death threats has come under intense scrutiny, and reports that they were used to do things like ferry him around for specific kinds of moisturizer are creating a buzz on Capitol Hill.

Federal law prohibits people in public office from using their positions for personal gain.

In the last week, emails uncovered by the Sierra Club show that one of Pruitt’s aides tried to set up a meeting with the CEO of Chick-fil-A, and Pruitt later confirmed it was to help his wife who was interested in opening a franchise.

Pruitt also, as The Washington Post first reported, approached Matthew Swift, the chief executive of Concordia, a New York nonprofit, using EPA resources, and got his wife a $2,000 gig to help with logistics for the group’s annual conference, where Pruitt was a speaker, Beyer wrote. He wants the FBI to look into whether Pruitt’s EPA did any favors for Concordia.

In addition, Beyer is asking the FBI to look at the condo deal Pruitt made with a lobbyist’s wife, securing a $50-per-night below-market-rate room for himself while in Washington.

“Despite Pruitt’s testimony to the contrary before Congress, documents from the firm of Pruitt’s lobbyist-landlord showed that he lobbied the EPA several times on behalf of clients. Companies represented by the firm of Pruitt’s landlord also benefitted from EPA decisions during Pruitt’s stay in the townhouse — the extent of which we still do not fully know,” Beyer wrote, adding that “his actions related to his wife’s employment and the quid-pro-quo condo situation with industry lobbyists may have crossed a line into criminal conduct punishable by fines or even by time in prison.”

Pruitt’s resignation letter is as follows:

Mr. President, it has been an honor to serve you in the Cabinet as Administrator of the EPA. Truly, your confidence in me has blessed me personally and enabled me to advance your agenda beyond what anyone anticipated at the beginning of your Administration. Your courage, steadfastness and resolute commitment to get results for the American people, both with regard to improved environmental outcomes as well as historical regulatory reform, is in fact occurring at an unprecedented pace and I thank you for the opportunity to serve you and the American people in helping achieve those ends.

That is why it is hard for me to advise you I am stepping down as Administrator of the EPA effective as of July 6. It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.

My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people. Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to.

Your Faithful Friend,

Scott Pruitt