White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has advised President Trump to fire Scott Pruitt, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Friday, as the Environmental Protection Agency chief's mountain of ethics scandals grows ever higher.
Also Friday, The Associated Press reported Pruitt has spent millions of EPA funding on a full-time, 20-person security team for himself, a detail about three times larger than his Obama administration predecessor's part-time team. His security agents have received so much overtime pay some have hit annual salary caps of $160,000 — in April. Some of these agents are investigators who otherwise would be assigned to EPA field work.
Pruitt is already under scrutiny for a rental arrangement with an energy lobbyist, raises for favored EPA employees, and reassignments or demotions for unfavored employees, notably those who questioned his official expenditures.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday the administration is "continuing to review any of the concerns that we have" about Pruitt. "No one other than the president has the authority to hire and fire members of his Cabinet," she said. "It's a decision that he'll make."
There is a persistent, if evolving, rumor on Capitol Hill, Politico reports, which has captured the conversations and stoked the speculation of members of Congress and their staff: More than 20 lawmakers from both major parties will be credibly accused of sexual harassment and other misconduct before the fervor of #MeToo dies down.
So far, five members of Congress — Al Franken (D-Minn.) in the Senate and John Conyers (D-Mich.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), and Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) in the House — have resigned or announced they will not seek re-election after allegations were leveled against them. That tally means three times as many accusations are yet to come if the rumor is true, a calculation that reportedly has Hill staff grilling their bosses about past misconduct to get ahead of potential exposure stories.
Also raising alarm is the possibility of false accusations, such as the ones that recently surfaced against Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "Members who have high-profile elections coming up or just are really out front on a particular issue are now feeling like they may be targets," Kristin Nicholson, a long-time Democratic staffer, told Politico. "The idea that [false allegations] could potentially get through and cause some harm before it's discounted is causing some fear." Bonnie Kristian
Rep. John Conyers' legacy was upended Monday when a BuzzFeed News report detailed sexual harassment allegations made against the Michigan Democrat. Now, the editorial board of the Detroit Free Press, his slightly left-leaning hometown paper, is calling for him to step down.
The longtime congressman is known as a civil rights icon and a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, facts the Free Press acknowledged in its scathing editorial published Tuesday. But he's also been accused of making sexual advances toward an employee — and having her fired when she refused.
That's enough to spark an inquiry into Conyers, the Free Press said. But his misconduct runs deeper: If the victim dropped her formal complaint against Conyers, his office said it would "re-hire" her and pay her as a temporary employee. The woman eventually agreed to those terms, receiving more than $27,000 over the course of three months. It's similar to a time Conyers kept paying his former chief of staff even after she was fired — payments the Free Press said look like "hush money."
While the editorial board did suggest reforming the Congressional Office of Compliance so these payoffs don't keep happening, that is "not the point with Conyers." "It's a betrayal that breaches the most fundamental trust that exists between a public servant and the people that person represents," the Free Press wrote.
Tuesday's New Hampshire primary might be John Kasich's last hurrah on the campaign trail. The Ohio governor, who came in 8th in Iowa with just 1.86 percent support, said Wednesday that if he "gets smoked" in New Hampshire, that very well may be the end of his efforts to win the Republican presidential nomination.
"If we don't do well, we're not going to be dragging around like some band of minstrels who beg people to come to our show," Kasich said at a Bloomberg Politics breakfast in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Kasich thinks his chances of doing well in New Hampshire are much stronger than they were in Iowa, though, adding that as his poll numbers in the Granite State have steadily risen, his fundraising has improved, too. Recent polls show Kasich in either second or third place in New Hampshire, and he's racked up numerous East Coast newspaper endorsements.
The New Hampshire primary is set for Tuesday, Feb. 9. Becca Stanek