Donald Trump didn’t have any official meetings scheduled for Wednesday, which meant doubled up “executive time” which translates as lots of cable news watching and that may not bode too well for embattled EPA head Scott Pruitt. Even the conservative Tulsa World made an editorial comment today, via this cartoon, about Pruitt’s future. Maybe Tillerson, McMaster and Shulkin can use a fourth for bridge?
The environment in D.C. is toxic – the environment in Tulsa is toxic – everything I touch turns toxic https://t.co/O8HBFVNOnE
— Scott “Economy Class is Toxic” Pruitt (@EPAAdminPruitt) April 4, 2018
But the White House made it clear Wednesday that President Donald Trump is not pleased with all the negative headlines surrounding him.
Pruitt’s challenges appeared to deepen when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — asked why Trump is “OK” with the EPA administrator renting a condo from a lobbyist for $50 a night — responded that “the president’s not.”
“We’re reviewing the situation,” she said, adding: “The president thinks that he’s done a good job, particularly on the deregulation front. But again, we take this seriously and we’re looking into it and we’ll let you know when we finish.”
An administration official called the White House’s view of the Pruitt situation “fluid.” The official said Trump is hesitant to make a change at the top of the EPA, which is why he hasn’t made a decision yet.
Pruitt has also been characterized as high maintenance and in some cases as more trouble than he’s worth.
Still, Pruitt has few defenders in the White House, where senior aides have largely stopped pushing back aggressively on negative stories about the EPA chief. Aides viewed that as a bad sign for Pruitt’s prospects, noting that the White House similarly stopped coming to the defense of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin in the days before Trump fired him last week.
Pruitt’s reputation as a ladder climber with big ambitions has repeatedly gotten under the skin of many in the White House. Several aides mentioned the news that Pruitt was interested in replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions as an example of Pruitt, in the words of one official, “flying too close to the sun.” People close to Trump say the president disdains staff who are seen to be hogging the spotlight.
But White House aides acknowledged that they simply don’t know what Trump will ultimately decide. Like so many senior officials before him whose status with Trump was the subject of weeks of speculation, Pruitt could be ousted in an instant or left to dangle for months.
Remember, this is the same Trump who accused the New York Times of fake news when they reported he was hiring a new lawyer, when that’s exactly what he was doing, and who said to H.R. McMaster, “You’re not going anywhere,” three days before he fired him. “Were he not one of the president’s favorite Cabinet members and viewed as loyal and effective, he would be gone already,” an anonymous source told Politico. “If the president starts to get shaky on him, things could move fast.”