Scott Pruitt Takes All the Credit and None of the Blame for His Scandal-Filled Time at the EPA

Here’s who he threw under the bus today.

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom/ZUMA

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Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt made a strong assertion of  his ultimate responsibility for what goes on at the EPA when he made his opening statement to the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, in a hearing that was dominated by questions about his ethics.

“I have nothing to hide,” he said. “The responsibility for identifying and making changes rests with me and no one else.”

But Pruitt spent much of the remainder of the three-hour hearing shifting the blame to EPA career employees, his environmental critics, and the media. He distanced himself from all of the controversies on his watch. “I am not aware,” became his favorite refrain. 

Asked about the $43,000 soundproof phone booth he had built in his office (the cost of which ballooned from the original estimate), Pruitt said that career staff had made all the decisions without his knowledge.

 

The Atlantic reported that Pruitt had personally signed off on raises for two of EPA staffers he knew from his Oklahoma days, after the White House rejected the raises. The raises were approved under Safe Drinking Water Act. But when Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y) asked about it, Pruitt replied, “I’m not aware if she was hired under that Drinking Water Act authority.”

Under Pruitt’s watch, the EPA’s enforcement penalties against polluters has dropped by 49 percent compared to his predecessors. Pruitt said he was not involved in one fine against a seed company that was reduced from $4.9 million to $150,000. Pruitt had hired Jeff Sands, a former Sygenta pesticides lobbyist as a senior adviser at the EPA.

Then there were the reports that Pruitt had retaliated against multiple staffers who questioned his spending requests:

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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