By: Chris White
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pressured President Donald Trump to oust Attorney General Jeff Sessions so he could take over the Department of Justice, CNN reported Tuesday, citing three sources familiar with the proposal.
Pruitt offered to temporarily replaceSessions for 210 days under the Vacancies Reform Act, a law passed in 1998 allowing the president to temporarily fill vacancies in the White House. The embattled EPA chief told Trump he would return to Oklahoma afterward to run for national office.
Pruitt denied the report in a press statement.
“This report is simply false,” he said Tuesday night. “General Sessions and I are friends and I have always said I want nothing more than to see him succeed in his role.”
Pruitt’s offer came in the spring while Trump was publicly castigating Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation. The president has repeatedly complained about the recusal for more than a year. He also floated replacing the embattled attorney general with Pruitt, an Oklahoma Republican who’s fending off nearly 14 probes into his spending and travel patterns.
Pruitt’s situation has only gotten worse after reports Tuesday show his aides kept “secret” calendars to hide meetings with industry representatives. EPA staffers often convened in Pruitt’s office to nix numerous records from the agency chief’s calendar to cover up a paper trail, Kevin Chmielewski, a former deputy chief of staff for operations at the EPA.
Pruitt faced far-ranging questions about his alleged ethical shortcomings during congressional testimony in April. Democrats grilled him for allegedly paying $6,100 for a room in a condo owned by Vicki Hart, who is married to J. Steven Hart, an energy lobbyist who represents industries the agency regulates. Payments to Hart came only on dates when the EPA administrator stayed in the room.
Democrats also teed-off on Pruitt’s flight expenses. Reports from The Washington Post, Politico, and others in February show taxpayers funded at least $90,000 for Pruitt and his top aides to fly in June, which included first-class seats and a ride on a military jet. The EPA maintains the flight upgrades were required due to an uptick in security threats Pruitt has faced during his first year in office.
Trump’s loyalty to Pruitt has maddened Democrats, but EPA officials claim his ability to beat back detractors is what’s preventing the president from pulling the trigger.
“They like fighters no matter what,” one official told Politicoin April of the Trump administration. “No matter what, fight. That’s what we’ve been conditioned to.”
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