The White House gave Scott Pruitt a chance to defend himself on Fox News. It didn't go well.
Late Monday, President Trump called embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to tell him "we've got your back," White House officials said Tuesday, and on Tuesday, Trump himself told reporters, "I hope he's going to be great." On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump is not okay with Pruitt's conduct, and the White House is "reviewing the situation."
"By Wednesday, White House officials were describing his situation as unsustainable," The Associated Press reports. "They said the EPA administrator was given a green light to sit down for the Fox interview, adding that if he failed to clear the ethical cloud his job would be in serious doubt." "Pruitt says the left is trying to take him out," Ed Henry, who conducted that interview, said on Fox News Wednesday night. "The problem for him, though, is the White House is mad at him now because he has been giving the left fodder."
In the interview, Pruitt said he did not know about the steep raises his agency gave two top aides he brought with him from Oklahoma, after the White House refused his request for the raises in March. "My staff and I found out about it yesterday and I changed it," Pruitt said, specifying that he had clawed back the raises but not who approved them.
Pruitt also noted that the EPA's ethics chief retroactively approved last year's $50-a-night rental agreement he had with Vicki Hart, the lobbyist wife of Steven Hart, whose own lobbying firm's clients met with the EPA and Pruitt last year. That ethics official, Kevin Minoli, said in a memo obtained by CNN and The Washington Post that he did not have all the relevant information when he evaluated Pruitt's lease last month.
"A copy of the lease, attached to Minoli's most recent memo, showed that Steven Hart's name had been scribbled out and his wife's name handwritten in," The Washington Post reports. "According to a senior administration official, Vicki Hart herself made the change."