Sen. Inhofe ‘a little embarrassed’ to have doubted EPA chief Pruitt – Now says Pruitt critics fueled by his deregulatory agenda
Inhofe ‘a little embarrassed’ to have doubted Pruitt
06/20/2018 10:36 AM EDT
Sen. Jim Inhofe says he’s confident in Scott Pruitt’s leadership after meeting with the embattled EPA chief Monday night — and said he’s “a little embarrassed” to have doubted his long-time friend from Oklahoma.
The Republican senator told reporters today that any of Pruitt’s lapses were minor and excusable given his lack of experience in Washington, but that many were simply untrue and fueled by critics of his deregulatory agenda.
“I think there are times where he displayed questionable judgment,” Inhofe said of Pruitt, who faces more than a dozen active federal investigations from bodies including the House Oversight Committee, the Office of Management and Budget and the EPA inspector general’s office. “He sure didn’t know anything about Washington when he got here.”
Inhofe also blamed Pruitt’s barrage of allegations of lavish spending, obsessive secrecy and unseemly coziness with industry on critics such as billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and “disgruntled former employees” of the agency. And he said opposition to Pruitt’s agenda have fueled significant threats against the administrator.
The senator’s words came just a week after Inhofe told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that he found the continued revelations about Pruitt troubling and would send him a “communication” warning him to cut it out.
But by this morning, he said, Pruitt had allayed his concerns.
“After the face-to-face with the administrator, I’m a little embarrassed that I was starting to doubt him in some areas where he shouldn’t have been doubted,” Inhofe said.
More on Senator Inhofe’s defense of Pruitt:
INHOFE TO THE RESCUE: Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., a top Pruitt supporter on the environment committee, held a briefing with reporters early Wednesday morning to discuss why he thinks the EPA administrator has been unfairly maligned by the media.
• Doubts put to rest: Inhofe said he was “getting concerned” about the press reports, but after a “face-to-face” with the administrator on Tuesday evening, “I’m a little embarrassed that I was starting to doubt him in some areas where he shouldn’t have been doubted.”
• Building a defense: Inhofe said his concerns about Pruitt’s questionable behavior have been put to rest and made a number of points in Pruitt’s defense.
• It’s Tom Steyer’s fault: First, he blamed billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer for instigating the attack through a virtually never-ending supply of funding to run attack campaigns.
• Unlimited cash to bash: “Here’s a man with unlimited funds to spread an extreme liberal agenda,” Inhofe said. He said the anti-Pruitt campaign wasn’t being run directly by Steyer, but through his funding of the American Bridge PAC.
• Pruitt pays his own way: Second, allegations that he received Rose Bowl tickets as a favor are unfounded. Inhofe said “he actually paid for the tickets” though the Oklahoma University ticket office and cleared them through the EPA ethics office.
• Morocco is part of his job: Third, travel costs to Morocco and Italy: “were in line with all past administrators.” Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy used $160,000 for foreign travel, Inhofe said. On the Morocco trip, specifically, it is “his job” to evaluate the environmental sections of trade agreements between the U.S. and foreign countries. On the Italy trip, “he had to be there” as part of the Group of Seven delegation.
• Trump told him to get security booth: On security costs, he said Pruitt spent $43,000 for a secured phone booth because Trump told Pruitt he required a “secured line.”
• Never uses it: “I have a secured line, and I never used it in 32 years,” Inhofe said. The cost overrun of Pruitt’s booth was caused by government bureaucracy, which should have made a better deal, but it did not.
• Real threats: Inhofe said the $3 million price tag for having a 24-hour security detail was due to serious threats facing Pruitt. Inhofe said Pruitt faces “far more serious threats” than any other EPA administrator.
• Activists are a threat: Inhofe said earlier this week, the group Occupy Wall Street publicly published Pruitt’s home address in Tulsa, which Inhofe said constituted taking “a pitchfork to it” and invading his private space.