In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Donald Trump’s hostility towards the Environmental Protection Agency isn’t exactly subtle. The president’s new budget proposes slashing the EPA’s funding; the White House is moving forward with plans to dramatically scale back the agency’s work; and Trump’s chosen director for the EPA makes no secret of his overt hostility towards the agency’s purpose.
And it’s against this backdrop that the president’s EPA administrator has found himself at the center of several ongoing controversies. The Associated Press reported late yesterday:
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt occasionally used private email to communicate with staff while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, despite telling Congress that he had always used a state email account for government business.
A review of Pruitt emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request showed a 2014 exchange where the Republican emailed a member of his staff using a personal Apple email account.
As a report from a Fox affiliate in Oklahoma makes clear, Pruitt’s use of private email for official business is not illegal, but that’s not the core problem here. Rather, the new controversy stems from the fact that Pruitt specifically told senators during his confirmation process that he never used a private email account to conduct official business.
In fact, the Republican assured senators – in writing and in sworn committee testimony – that he used his official government email account exclusively when conducting public affairs.
It’s a curious thing to lie about. Remind me, does the political world take an interest in public officials facing email controversies?
But making matters worse is the fact that Pruitt, who’s only been on the job at the EPA for 11 days, is already facing three controversies.
We learned last week, for example, that Pruitt illegally hid correspondence that documented his cooperation with the oil and gas industries – the industries he’ll ostensibly help regulate as the head of the EPA. Evidence also emerged last week pointing to Pruitt’s role in a botched execution in Oklahoma.
Now we’re learning that Pruitt twice gave false information to the senators responsible for scrutinizing his record ahead of his confirmation. It usually takes a cabinet official more time to rack up this many controversies.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) told the AP yesterday, “Now that he is in charge of protecting clean air and water in every community across the country, the public must decide for themselves whether they can trust Pruitt when he can’t even be honest about his email or his ties to the oil and gas industry.”