When President Donald Trump nominated Scott Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, he looked like he would be a bright spot for the administration: a smart and tough advocate for deregulation and the rule of law. Since his confirmation he has withdrawn such overreaching regulatory initiatives from the Obama administration as the Clean Power Plan, and helped persuade the president to announce plans to withdraw from the Paris global-warming accord. We have applauded these moves, and still do.
But we are now at a point where a good week for Pruitt sees only one report of behavior that is bizarre or venal. He seems to have used government employees to secure a job for his wife and to get a discount on a mattress. His top aides got hefty raises, and Pruitt first told Fox News he did not know about those raises and then told a House committee that he did. He reportedly told aides to find reasons for him to take official trips to countries he wanted to see, and had security aides run errands such as searching for his favorite lotion. And that’s just the start.
This is no way for any public official to treat taxpayers. It also makes it practically impossible for Pruitt to make the case for the Trump administration’s environmental policies — a case that we continue to believe deserves to be made. It does not help that Pruitt’s conduct has left him nearly alone at the agency. Many of his top aides have fled and paranoia seems to consume those who remain.
We share most of Pruitt’s views about environmental policy. But the same could be said of many other people, including Andrew Wheeler, the agency’s deputy administrator, who would become acting administrator upon a vacancy in the top job. Pruitt is replaceable. And he should be replaced.