The Post reports that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s lush trip to Israel — parts of which were arranged by GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson — was canceled once his luxury travel plans were revealed:
Federal documents obtained by The Post and interviews with individuals familiar with the trip reveal that it fit a pattern by Pruitt of planning foreign travel with significant help from outside interests, including lobbyists, Republican donors and conservative activists.
After taking office last year, Pruitt drew up a list of at least a dozen countries he hoped to visit and urged aides to help him find official reasons to travel, according to four people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal agency deliberations. Pruitt then enlisted well-connected friends and political allies to help make the trips happen. …
Pruitt’s practice of involving outsiders in his travels raises serious ethical concerns, legal experts said; federal law prohibits public officials from using their office to enrich themselves or any private individual, or to offer endorsements.
Using your government job to check off travel destinations on your bucket list is just about the swampiest gambit in a long list of Pruitt’s abuses. (“Along with Israel and Australia, Pruitt’s wish list for global travel included Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Panama, Poland, Japan, India and Canada, former staff members said, adding that Pruitt asked staffers to schedule the trips at a pace of roughly one per month.”) The latest ethics outrage comes on top of about a dozen separate investigations into allegations of Pruitt’s excessive spending on things such as a soundproof booth and an oversize security entourage, retaliation toward whistleblowers, outsize salary increases for top staff and an apartment rental agreement with the wife of a lobbyist.
Unfortunately, Republican Senate and House chairmen are moving at a snail’s pace. The Post notes: “Late Thursday, Democratic Sens. Thomas R. Carper (Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) wrote to Pruitt seeking more information about the Israel trip, the agency’s agreement with Water-Gen and ‘the role Mr. Adelson or other non-governmental officials played.'” But where are the Republican committee chairmen and the GOP leadership? Nowhere to be seen.
The White House is still tiptoeing around the Pruitt fiasco as well. Earlier this week, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short had this exchange with CBS News reporter Major Garrett:
GARRETT: And do you think that, based on what has been publicly disclosed, his use of taxpayer dollars is defensible?
SHORT: I think that we campaigned on a promise to drain the swamp. We have to — we have to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars, and I think that we take that promise seriously to the American people. I think that there are certain areas that the administrator would acknowledge were mistakes that he would want to fix.
GARRETT: He could do a better job?
SHORT: Yeah. I think he would acknowledge that. …
GARRETT: Is it the delivery on the agenda part that keeps him safe?
SHORT: You know, I think that, Major, he — it’s factual to say that he has delivered on the agenda, and that is important. But I don’t think that you can say that simply delivering on the agenda excuses misuse of taxpayer dollars. I think that many of the things that are still going on with Scott Pruitt are under investigation, and we’re looking at it.
Minimizing stomach-turning, out-in-the-open corruption has come to define this White House. It is the utter absence of shame that is so striking. “We’re looking at it” is what people say when they do not want to confront corruption. The White House’s lethargy is only encouraged when House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) refuses to call public hearings or issue subpoenas.
Here is an idea: Democrats should run on impeachment in 2018 — the impeachment of Pruitt. He’s the poster boy for corruption and for Republican tolerance of the same. Trump is not on the ballot, but his enablers are, and if voters were serious about rooting out corruption, they better start with the swamp creatures’ protectors in Congress.
UPDATED at 10:42 a.m. May 7: Gowdy’s spokesman says Gowdy began looking into the matter in February and insisted, “We have no need to request subpoenas when we are voluntarily getting access to all documents and witnesses that we have requested. We do not hold hearings until the conclusion of an investigation.” That was not the procedure followed in the Benghazi case. Gowdy’s spokeswoman argues, “We held a total of three public hearings in over 2 years. We issued 8 subpoenas in over 2 years. Subpoenas were issued only when witnesses refused to appear voluntarily or when documents deadlines were missed (by months). We have [been] investigating Pruitt for 3 months.” Presumably Gowdy will wait for many more months before using the full powers of oversight. Meanwhile, Pruitt’s corruption jag continues without consequences.