It’s been amply established that one of the biggest cons Donald Trump pulled on the American people was his vow to “drain the swamp.” After all, several members of his cabinet have been deservedly pilloried for living large on our dime. By far the worst offender who is still on the public payroll is EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
At last count, there are at least 12 active inquiries into Pruitt’s spending and management practices. Among other things, Pruitt is under fire for staying at a Washington condo owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist at only $50 per night. He has a 24-hour security detail that cost taxpayers $3.5 million in 2017, and may have accompanied him on personal travel. He also tried to pull strings to get a Chick-fil-A franchise with his wife.
Most recently, Pruitt came under fire for announcing an EPA partnership with Toyota–after Toyota arranged a test drive for him. He also tried to get an old mattress from a Trump hotel, prompting Anderson Cooper to pillory him on CNN. Watch here.
But from the looks of it, Trump’s attitude toward Pruitt seems to be, “Scott, you’re doing a heckuva job!” According to The New York Times, Pruitt is one of the few people Trump trusts in a Cabinet and West Wing full of yes-men and yes-women. Apparently Pruitt hates Attorney General Jeff Sessions almost as much as Trump. Indeed, as early as January, Pruitt was reportedly angling for Sessions’ job. However, the festering atmosphere of scandal around him means his confirmation chances are somewhere between slim and none.
That being said, though, one has to wonder why he’s still in his current post. Late last week, six House Democrats asked the FBI to open a criminal investigation into Pruitt. Read the letter here.
One of the signatories, Pramila Jaypal of Washington, has already made up her mind about Pruitt’s fate, though.
The lack of outrage over Pruitt’s misdeeds from the Republican side doesn’t sit well with American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman Ornstein. A registered Democrat at a mostly conservative think tank, Ornstein recently sat down with E&E News to flay Congress for all but abandoning oversight of the EPA. He believes that Pruitt’s corruption merits an extreme remedy–impeachment.
While Congress has usually reserved its impeachment power for judges, it is well established that Cabinet members can be impeached by the House and removed from office by the Senate. Ornstein knows this history, but thinks the situation has gotten to the point that impeachment may be necessary.
“…I can’t think of a better candidate than Scott Pruitt. I’m sure there has never been a Cabinet officer subject to two or three investigations and we have, what, 13 and counting?”
A number of Republicans have expressed misgivings about the drip drip drip of scandal surrounding Pruitt. But Ornstein thinks the lack of action behind those words betrays a “lack of morality.”
Congress has only impeached a Cabinet member once, when Ulysses S. Grant’s Secretary of War, William Belknap, was impeached for taking bribes in return for awarding tradership contracts on the frontier. During the subsequent hearings, Belknap saw the writing on the wall and resigned. This didn’t stop the House from unanimously impeaching him. The Senate acquitted him–but only because it felt that Belknap’s resignation made the issue moot.
Ornstein believes that Pruitt will likely be brought up on criminal charges at the rate things are going. But we already know Pruitt is the biggest swamp creature in Washington who isn’t a Trump by birth or marriage.
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