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Opinion Five ways to tell if Pruitt will survive

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

The Post reports:

A top aide at the Environmental Protection Agency, who recently received a 33 percent raise from Administrator Scott Pruitt despite a lack of approval from the White House, helped shop for housing options for him and his wife last year, according to several individuals with knowledge of the matter.
Millan Hupp, 26, who serves as Pruitt’s director of scheduling and advance, contacted a local real estate firm last summer as the EPA chief was moving out of a $50-per-night rental condo owned by the wife of an energy and transportation lobbyist. Three individuals, including current and former EPA employees, said Hupp was the point person for Pruitt’s search. . . .
Another EPA employee, 30-year-old Sarah Greenwalt, who serves as Pruitt’s senior counsel after working with him in Oklahoma, also received a sharp raise in recent weeks. Her salary jumped more than 52 percent, from $107,435 to $164,200.
To hand out such raises, Pruitt used an obscure provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act  after the White House refused to boost the two women’s pay, according to two people with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

To catch up (this is like a law exam to spot all the ethical violations): Pruitt may have improperly used Hupp to secure housing after vacating a condo rented under very favorable terms from the wife of a lobbyist — and then defied the White House by giving both Hupp and Greenwalt outsized (really, outsized) raises.

Mind you, in any other White House he likely would have been fired for even one of the list of ethical messes (insisting on flying first class to avoid irate voters, building a $43,000 soundproof booth, running up $120,000 on European travel). But then it is hard to imagine any other president hiring someone who doubts climate change science, is keen on rolling back gas mileage standards and preventing California from keeping its standards high. (Pruitt announced, “Cooperative federalism doesn’t mean that one state can dictate standards for the rest of the country.” It actually means California should be able to be more environmentally responsible if that is its preference.)

President Trump gave a less than full-throated endorsement to his EPA chief in front of reporters Tuesday. “I hope he’s going to be great,” Trump said. Umm “going to be”?

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You might wonder how Pruitt remains in place. (I’m typing this quickly for fear he might be gone by the time I reach the end of the next paragraph.) Well, there are five criteria, I would suggest, that determine whether a senior adviser gets booted: 1.) Does he bore or annoy Trump? 2.) Has he been caught insulting Trump (The “moron” problem)? 3.) Does he show any independence of thought, suggest Trump is wrong about something or try to rely on independent factual data to make his points? 4.) Does he have a sexual assault/harassment problem which might remind voters Trump has a long list of accusers? 5.) Does he make Trump look bad by not managing his department?

In the case of Pruitt, so far only the fifth factor applies (as far as we know). The important element running through all the firing criteria is not competence, gravitas or ethical purity. Heavens no. The common word in all five is “Trump.” It’s always and only about him.