Scott Pruitt

Molly Riley

The Lead-Up To EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's Resignation

July 06, 2018 - 3:08 pm
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WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) -- Friday marked the last full day in office for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, and CBS News Correspondent Major Garrett said it was not a surprise.

Garrett told WCBS 880’s Wayne Cabot and Alex Silverman that the resignation was not expected this week, but it was well-known that Pruitt was in trouble.

“He has been in trouble for months. The best signal – and it wasn’t really a clear one, but it was moving in this direction; came from the White House when the president was traveling earlier this week – a new story about another investigation of Scott Pruitt arose, and the White House said: ‘We find this information troubling. We’re going to look at it, and we’ll get back to you. They’d always said those things before, but it always added, ‘Scott Pruitt’s done a great job; the president has confidence in him,’” Garrett said. “The absence of those two last positive qualifiers, I should have realized, was a signal that Pruitt was closer to being on the way out than I thought.”

The headline-grabbing scandals involving Pruitt were wide-ranging.

Several top aides have left the EPA after Pruitt told lawmakers that his subordinates were to blame for alleged ethical lapses that have prompted more than a dozen federal investigations. The alleged lapses include spending on Pruitt's behalf for round-the-clock security guards, first-class plane tickets, and a $43,000 soundproof telephone booth.

He has also been criticized for a super-sweet rental agreement for a condo connected to a Washington lobbyist.

There were also reports Wednesday that Pruitt directly asked Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and make Pruitt attorney general.

Also under scrutiny were Pruitt’s alleged attempts to “find his wife a job or a Chick-Fil-A franchise, (and give) lavish raises to people that worked with him in Oklahoma before coming to the EPA,” Garrett said.

But President Donald Trump said there was no proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back with Pruitt.

Still, Garrett said: “But several of those investigations were ripening; they’re going to come out with reports in the next month. The House Oversight Committee, run by Republicans, just got more damaging testimony; their report was probably going to come out sometime in the fall. Pruitt may have looked at those reports, said: ‘They’re not going to be good. They’re going to damage the White House. They’re going to damage Republicans running for reelection. I’d better get out while I can and live to fight another day.”

Trump said on Air Force One Thursday that Pruitt is trying to preserve what political future he has left, Garrett said.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)