Politics & Policy

A Defense of Scott Pruitt

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt at CPAC 2017 (Gage Skidmore)
And a plea that Republicans reconsider before echoing the nonstop left-wing assaults on him

The past few weeks’ media frenzy about EPA administrator Scott Pruitt is a manufactured crisis, punctuated by false or exaggerated accusations, then followed by necessary corrections from ostensibly responsible media outlets, who let their determination to “get” Pruitt override their journalistic ethics, a seeming oxymoron when it comes to reporting about Scott Pruitt.

Two weeks ago, the Washington Post breathlessly reported that Scott Pruitt had instructed his EPA staff to find his wife a job. Juicy, if true. Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story. While some EPA staff members may have taken it upon themselves to get involved in her job search, I was the person who was working with Marlyn Pruitt on a regular basis to help her find work that would suit her skills and would not violate government ethics rules. As a lawyer who deals with executive and congressional ethics regulations, I was and am well aware of the requirements. We were mindful at all times of the need to ensure that any work she undertook was within the ethics rules, and it absolutely has been.

Scott Pruitt has been a good friend of mine since his days as Oklahoma attorney general and I have talked with and tried to help him through the years, well before he joined the Trump administration.

Last year, I voluntarily assisted Mrs. Pruitt in seeking professional opportunities that would steer clear of any ethics rules involving the EPA or Administrator Pruitt. It was 100 percent above board and within government ethics rules and at no time did I speak with or hear from any EPA employee regarding their “helping” with her job hunt.

To say that the administrator “used” EPA staffers to get his wife a job simply isn’t true. I know because I was directly involved in this effort. It was done in a spirit of helping my friends and fellow Oklahomans, something I’ve done for others from Oklahoma who have moved to Washington, where I’ve lived for more than 25 years.

After receiving the facts, the New York Times was forced to issue a correction.  False story: page 1. Correction to false story: small print, page 2.

Following the Washington Post’s report, National Review called for Scott Pruitt’s resignation. That was both startling and disappointing. The allegations against Pruitt are actually quite benign, when one takes time to learn the facts. It is only because the reporting is conducted at such a high decibel level that the “stories” create a false narrative of some major wrongdoing.

The media vendetta against Pruitt is so vicious that stories are published about him with zero concern about accuracy. The New York Times demonstrated its bias against Pruitt and didn’t exactly cover itself with glory when it falsely reported last week that he used his position at EPA to get his daughter into the University of Virginia Law school. After receiving the facts — which included a letter from UVA stating that the Pruitts’ daughter was admitted in the fall of 2016, before Donald Trump was even elected — the New York Times was forced to issue a correction.  False story: page 1. Correction to false story: small print, page 2.

The accusations against Scott Pruitt are intended to build a narrative that because he has done various things that allegedly violate federal ethics rules, he cannot continue to serve as EPA administrator. But the chief agenda of the leftists is to sweep away Pruitt’s policy mindset and thwart his laudable efforts to rein in the EPA.

So what exactly has he done wrong?

We’re told he flew first class at a high cost to taxpayers. But he did so amid well-documented security concerns. The viciousness of the death threats against Pruitt are real, and his security detail has provided to Congress its review of the threats against him and their conclusion that security for this Trump official was not going to be easy. Or cheap.

I’ve received nasty emails and calls from strangers simply because I’ve been identified as the trustee of the Pruitt Legal Expenses Trust Fund. But the nasty emails to me pale in comparison to the serious threats against Pruitt.

The attacks against Pruitt are a pretext for what the Left is really angry about: Trump’s election and his subsequent naming of Pruitt as EPA administrator — and the remarkable job Pruitt is doing on policy matters.

Other members of the Trump administration have been similarly subjected to death threats against themselves and their families. And in just the past few days, those attacks and threats are being escalated against White House staffers and others simply for supporting President Trump.

The Pruitt allegations may point to missteps or errors of judgment, but such mistakes are not criminal, violent, immoral, or wicked.

The attacks against Scott Pruitt are a pretext for what the Left is really angry about: President Trump’s election and his subsequent naming of Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator — and the remarkable job Pruitt is doing on policy matters at the EPA. He is wresting control of this taxpayer-funded agency from the clutches of the environmental activists and groups that have taken as given that the agency belongs to them rather than the American people.

As Scott Pruitt fights the battle to restore environmental common sense and the rule of law to the EPA, those who hate such ideas are treating all of us to a full display of how they fight. They rail against the substance, to be sure, but they are also skilled in the art of character assassinations — and that’s what is driving the narrative against Pruitt, as they hope that their sworn enemy can be toppled by their relentless attacks. The Left knows how to use the media and various government “ethics” officials and agencies to wage their wars, and that is exactly what they are doing to Scott Pruitt.

Those leading the attacks against Pruitt have nothing but contempt for the principles that NR holds dear. It would be well to be mindful of the reality of what is really happening here and for NR to stand up and fight against the vicious Left, rather than throwing in with them on something this important.

Cleta Mitchell is a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Foley & Lardner, LLP, and a Republican campaign-finance attorney.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

O’Rourke’s America

With apologies to Margaret Atwood and a thousand other dystopian novelists, we do not have to theorize about what an American police state would look like, because we know what it looks like: the airport, that familiar totalitarian environment where Americans are disarmed, stripped of their privacy, divested of ... Read More

Kurdish, Syrian, and Turkish Ironies

Outrage met Donald Trump’s supposedly rash decision to pull back U.S. troops from possible confrontational zones between our Kurdish friends in Syria and Recep Erdogan’s expeditionary forces. Turkey claims that it will punish the Syrian Kurds for a variety of supposed provocations, including aiding and ... Read More

LeBron James Looks Like a Fraud

So, LeBron James claimed that Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey was simply “misinformed or not really educated on the situation” when he tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. “I don’t want to get into a feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Hey, Good for You, Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton declares on The View that she’s not considering running for Congress. Throughout the run-up to the 2016 election, I was a pretty dyspeptic critic of Chelsea Clinton -- from her $1,083-per-minute speaking gig at a university, to her selection to give the keynote address at SXSW, to her awards ... Read More