EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigns

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned after months of ethics controversies, President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday. CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.

Posted: Jul 6, 2018 9:41 PM
Updated: Jul 6, 2018 10:08 PM

When Scott Pruitt "resigned" as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, only one relevant question jumped to mind: What the hell took so long?

After all, Pruitt is -- or, maybe was -- the subject of 14 separate probes into his conduct as EPA administrator. Fourteen! Separate! Probes! From almost the moment he was sworn in to lead the EPA, Pruitt has been caught -- time and time again -- apparently trying to enrich himself (and his wife and everyone else he knows) using his office. That is, when he wasn't flying first class -- or private -- in order, allegedly, to avoid people who wanted to confront him about his policy decisions. Or ordering younger aides to put things on their credit cards. Or get him a certain kind of hand lotion he liked. Or look into securing a Chick-Fil-A franchise. Or renting a room in an energy lobbyist's house for $50 a night. (Worth noting: Pruitt didn't just turn into this guy when he arrived in Washington; he was like that in Oklahoma as well, as documented by this terrific New York Times story.)

And yet, day after day, terrible headline after terrible headline (after terrible headline), Pruitt stayed in the job. The White House would insist Trump was "troubled" by all of these accusations against Pruitt and that they were conducting some sort of review -- and yet as days turned into months, everyone -- including Republicans across Washington -- wondered why Trump didn't jettison his most troublesome Cabinet secretary.

Here are four theories aimed at answering the "what took so long?" question.

1. Pruitt did exactly what Trump wanted. Trump campaigned on the idea that the EPA has turned into liberals' dream of overregulation of average people. He picked Pruitt to undo many of the regulations the Obama administration had put in place on things like coal and water. According to an analysis by Politico of Pruitt's first year in office, the EPA either withdrew or delayed regulations 47 times -- a massive increase from the 14 withdrawals/delays in the first year of the Obama administration. Pruitt was effectively deconstructing the regulatory state. And so, Trump liked him.

"While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!" Trump tweeted in April. Days before, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders offered up this on Pruitt: "The President thinks he is doing a good job, particularly on the deregulation front."

2. Trump saw some of himself in Pruitt. Pruitt is brash and unapologetic about his views and his conduct. And in both Oklahoma and Washington, that willingness to speak his mind made establishment types very nervous. And once Pruitt was in Washington, he was the focus of a seemingly endless stream of negative news coverage, which he insisted was false and driven by liberals who wanted him to fail. Sound like anyone else you know?

3. There were so many problems, they canceled themselves out. There's a great scene in "The Simpsons" where Mr. Burns, the decrepit old tycoon, goes to the doctor. After a checkup, the doc informs Mr. Burns that he is "the sickest man in the United States. ... You have everything." And yet, Mr. Burns is perfectly healthy. How? Because all of his ailments are blocking each other from attacking his body; "All of your diseases are in perfect balance," the doctor tells the astounded Burns.

I've been thinking about Scott Pruitt in those terms for a while now. There are so many problems, so many ethical issues, so many bad stories that they all sort of cancel each other out. As in: No one could follow all of the various transgressions committed by Pruitt. The sheer number of allegations may well have led Trump to sort of tune them out -- under the belief that they couldn't all be true.

4. Trump is a contrarian -- in this and all things. When the news of Pruitt's "resignation" hit the White House, there was reportedly cheering from some of the staff. For months, Trump had been urged to get rid of Pruitt by virtually everyone on his senior staff. Trump views himself as at his best when he is going against the crowd, bucking the conventional wisdom. If everyone is saying "X," Trump is naturally drawn to "Y" -- even if in a vacuum he would choose "X."

Even when he spoke about Pruitt Thursday afternoon aboard Air Force One, Trump was unwilling to criticize the former EPA head. "He'll go on to great things and he's going to have a wonderful life, I hope," Trump said of Pruitt. "But he felt that he did not want to be a distraction for an administration that he has a lot of faith in."

The truth is that some combination of these factors is what kept Pruitt in his job for as long as he stayed. As Trump said Thursday afternoon, there was "no final straw" in the Pruitt situation. (Sidebar: If Pruitt actually resigned of his own free will, why would there be any straw at all?) The most likely scenario is that Trump's patience simply wore out; he got tired of defending Pruitt and gave into advisers' wishes that the EPA chief be sent packing.

That Pruitt is gone is not at all remarkable. That he stayed for so long really is.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 14372

Reported Deaths: 693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds92024
Lauderdale69957
Madison68721
Scott62310
Neshoba56534
Jones52519
Forrest51137
DeSoto4936
Leake39512
Rankin3736
Holmes37324
Jackson30013
Copiah2854
Attala27715
Monroe25324
Leflore25030
Lincoln25022
Newton2504
Harrison2457
Lamar2275
Yazoo2233
Pearl River20731
Pike20211
Adams19015
Lowndes1828
Noxubee1696
Washington1636
Warren1587
Oktibbeha15010
Bolivar14911
Wayne1480
Jasper1483
Covington1411
Clarke13517
Smith13311
Kemper13110
Chickasaw12812
Lafayette1254
Lee1175
Carroll11410
Coahoma1133
Marion1129
Winston1051
Clay1043
Lawrence991
Simpson930
Hancock8711
Yalobusha855
Wilkinson859
Itawamba857
Grenada823
Montgomery811
Sunflower783
Union785
Marshall763
Jefferson Davis752
Tippah7111
Tate691
Panola643
Claiborne642
Calhoun614
Webster591
Amite561
Humphreys537
Tunica523
Walthall510
Perry492
Prentiss413
Jefferson400
Choctaw352
Stone300
Pontotoc283
Franklin272
Tishomingo260
Quitman250
Tallahatchie251
George201
Benton140
Alcorn141
Greene111
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 16310

Reported Deaths: 590
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2085112
Jefferson167397
Montgomery144634
Marshall6609
Tuscaloosa63212
Lee52632
Franklin4986
Shelby47019
Tallapoosa41063
Butler39113
Chambers34024
Madison3154
Elmore3007
Baldwin2829
Walker2821
DeKalb2403
Etowah24011
Dallas2323
Coffee2191
Lowndes21610
Morgan2111
Sumter2106
Autauga1923
Houston1854
Bullock1763
Pike1730
Colbert1612
Calhoun1523
Marengo1506
Choctaw1487
Russell1480
Lauderdale1452
Hale1416
Wilcox1327
Barbour1301
Clarke1282
Randolph1247
Marion11711
St. Clair1081
Pickens964
Dale960
Talladega963
Chilton931
Greene914
Cullman880
Limestone860
Winston770
Covington751
Jackson742
Bibb711
Henry702
Macon672
Crenshaw662
Washington656
Blount531
Escambia483
Lawrence460
Geneva400
Perry360
Conecuh351
Coosa341
Monroe342
Cherokee332
Clay272
Lamar210
Cleburne131
Fayette130
Unassigned00
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