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Trump says EPA chief Scott Pruitt is not blameless: 'We'll see what happens'

  • Trump suggests that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt shoulders some of the blame for the controversies that have engulfed his agency.
  • "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," Trump says.
  • Pruitt and the EPA now face about a dozen investigations into spending, ethics, management and policy issues.

President Donald Trump on Friday suggested that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt shoulders some of the blame for the controversies engulfing his agency.

"Scott Pruitt is doing a great job within the walls of the EPA. I mean, we're setting records," Trump told a reporter, who asked what it would take for him to get tired of Pruitt and say "enough."

"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," Trump added, prior to departing for a meeting with G-7 countries in Quebec.

Trump's statement was perhaps his most equivocal since it was revealed more than two months ago that Pruitt had leased a Capitol Hill condominium linked to a prominent energy lobbyist for just $50 a night. Since then, a steady trickle of reports has led the EPA inspector general, as well as federal and congressional investigators, to open probes into Pruitt's EPA. Pruitt and his agency now face about a dozen investigations.

Trump has stood by Pruitt, who is spearheading the president's effort to roll back energy and environmental regulations, throughout the EPA chief's troubled tenure. On Wednesday, Trump defended Pruitt during a hurricane response briefing, saying EPA is "doing really, really well," adding, "Somebody has to say that about you a little bit. You know that, Scott."

Just one day earlier, internal EPA emails revealed that Pruitt had an aide reach out to Chick-fil-A to inquire about securing a franchise location for Pruitt's wife. That report only fueled demands from Democrats that investigators probe a string of personal tasks Pruitt had staffers perform for him. Aides have also conducted housing hunts and inquired with Trump International Hotel about acquiring a used mattress for him.

Prior to the condo controversy, Pruitt already faced inquiries into the high cost of his travel and security detail, which is significantly higher than his predecessors' expenses. The Government Accountability Office has already found EPA violated federal laws by approving the purchase of a $43,000 secure phone booth for Pruitt's office.

Pruitt has largely blamed career staff and political appointees for the decisions that have embroiled the EPA in controversy. In recent congressional hearings, he has admitted to facing a learning curve and said he would not repeat some choices he's made in the past.

However, he has also dismissed some negative news stories as half-truths leveled at him by critics who disagree with his agenda, though he has not specified which reports he considers inaccurate. He has also evaded questions from lawmakers about those reports, sometimes saying he doesn't recall the events.