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Was an 'Embarrassing' Story Pruitt's Undoing?

And more on EPA administrator's sudden 'resignation'
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2018 6:51 AM CDT
Pruitt's Departure: His Decision or Forced by Trump?
In this May 16, 2018, file photo, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt appears before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(Newser) – There was no "final straw" that led to the departure of Scott Pruitt from the EPA, per President Trump, who says it was Pruitt who asked to step down, the Hill reports. "It was very much up to him," Trump said when pressed by reporters about Thursday's announcement. "Scott is a terrific guy. And he came to me and he said, 'I have such great confidence in the administration. I don't want to be a distraction.'" But the Washington Post tells a different story, citing two administration officials who say Pruitt was forced out by Trump without even a one-on-one conversation. The sources say instead, Trump had chief of staff John Kelly call the EPA "around midday to say it was time for Pruitt to go." More on the surprise news:

  • Pruitt didn't seem too concerned about his job over the holiday, with the New York Times noting he made an appearance at two July 4 parties and showed "no indication" of a potential shakeup. What may have caused Trump to move on Pruitt, per one source: an "embarrassing" story that recently came out about Pruitt gunning for Jeff Sessions' job as attorney general.
  • Pruitt's resignation letter made clear his fealty to the president, but in the Daily Intelligencer, Margaret Hartmann writes that Pruitt "miscalculated" on two fronts: one, he didn't inspire loyalty among those who worked for him, and two, he may have thought Trump's constant emphasis on "loyalty" would shield him. But "by now everyone should be aware that the only person Trump is really loyal to is himself," Hartmann notes.
  • ScienceAlert lists some of the reactions to Pruitt's departure, with at least one person noting his "epic" resignation letter. Sen. Elizabeth Warren says Pruitt should've been shown the door "28 scandals ago," per USA Today, while the executive director for DC's Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics watchdog issued a curt one-word statement that simply read "Good," Newsweek reports.
  • Kristin Mink, the woman who confronted Pruitt earlier this week at a restaurant and asked him to resign, is also reacting. "Not in a million years did I think this would happen. You know, so quickly," she tells ABC7, adding she started "jumping up and down" when she heard the news. She also had a tongue-in-cheek tweet for the president, per the Hill: "Hey @realDonaldTrump where are you going to lunch tomorrow?"

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  • Susan Glaser notes in the New Yorker that Pruitt's departure is another indication that chief of staff John Kelly is useless in stanching the turnover hemorrhage that's come to epitomize the Trump administration. "It's long since been clear that the Trump-staff death watch is one of the signature story lines of this Presidential reality show," she writes. Kelly has become powerless in general, with "Trump himself [having] assumed the role of chief of staff."
  • So what's left in Pruitt's wake? If Trump continues down the same path Pruitt started, an "overheated planet and shortened life spans," says the New York Times editorial board.
  • Still, this development could prove "political gold" for Democrats, Jon Healey writes for the Los Angeles Times. "The November election will clearly be a referendum on environmental protection," he writes. "Look forward to lots of 30-second ads featuring smokestacks belching out black clouds and pipes dumping sludge into rivers."
  • So what about Pruitt's replacement? Vox and Time offer quick primers on Andrew Wheeler, the EPA's deputy administrator who will be stepping in for the time being, and they both note his ties to the coal industry. The AP details how Wheeler differs from his predecessor (he's a DC insider, for one), while NBC News speaks to green groups who don't think Wheeler will prove to be better for the environment than Pruitt.
(Read more Scott Pruitt stories.)

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