THE BLIZZARD of ethical questions surrounding Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has become a Category 5 storm. Already facing big questions about his wasteful spending and relationships with lobbyists, Mr. Pruitt intensified his problems by dishonestly blaming his staff for one major ethical failure. Then the New York Times revealed that staffers who tried to rein in Mr. Pruitt’s unnecessary spending were punished. More than ever, it is clear that Mr. Pruitt is unfit to serve.
Mr. Pruitt, who has eschewed contact with mainstream media in favor of sympathetic conservative outlets, took to Fox News on Wednesday to defend himself. But under questioning from Fox News’s Ed Henry, Mr. Pruitt was unable to explain how two of his favorite staffers got massive, unauthorized pay raises that the White House had previously rejected. The administrator claimed he did not know who on his staff was responsible for the end run around the White House and that he only heard about the raises the previous day. Yet The Post’s Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Josh Dawsey reported subsequently that Mr. Pruitt had, in fact, ordered the raises. It is still unclear how involved he was in circumventing the White House’s rejection of those raises, but his total denial of responsibility on Fox News does not square with the reported record.
Meanwhile, the New York Times revealed Thursday that five EPA staffers who questioned Mr. Pruitt’s lavish spending were reassigned or demoted. These staffers raised concerns about first-class travel, costly security upgrades, and expensive office furniture and renovations. One of them fought buying Mr. Pruitt a $100,000-per-month charter aircraft membership, spending $70,000 to replace two office desks and wasting $43,000 on a soundproof booth in the administrator’s office. Another objected to using flashing lights and sirens to shuttle Mr. Pruitt through Washington traffic — including to dinner at the French restaurant Le Diplomate. Several of the staffers raised concerns about Mr. Pruitt flying first class, a habit the administrator indulged in more often after one of them was sidelined. An EPA spokesman claimed that Mr. Pruitt was unaware of some of these extravagant outlays and rejected the notion that concerned staffers had been punished, but the administrator has already shown what his denials are worth.
Capping off the week, EPA ethics officers walked back their clearance of Mr. Pruitt’s sketchy condo rental deal, revealing that they had not been given all the relevant information necessary to make a reasonable call. The administrator rented a room in a Capitol Hill condo for $50 a night — but only paid for the nights he spent in residence, and his daughter was allowed to use a second bedroom. He got this sweetheart deal from the wife of a prominent energy and environmental lobbyist whose clients obtained favorable treatment from the EPA while Mr. Pruitt was staying at the condo.
In any normal administration, Mr. Pruitt would be gone. Instead, even as revelations about Mr. Pruitt piled up this week, Mr. Trump was reportedly still entertaining the idea of installing Mr. Pruitt as attorney general, a position for which his primary qualification may be willingness to squelch the Russia investigation. An ideologue who has arrogantly abused his position, Mr. Pruitt does not deserve a promotion. He deserves to be fired.
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