Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is doubling down on his efforts to blame his recent scandals on agency staff and the political left.
In a Wednesday interview on a Washington Free Beacon podcast, Pruitt said many of the most high-profile spending or ethics controversies involving him in recent months, like those involving his $43,000 secure phone booth and his frequent first-class travel, have been the fault of career staff.
“Some of the things that have been in the media are decisions made by career staff, processes that were at the agency that there weren’t proper checks and balances. So I’ve actually made changes at the agency,” Pruitt told the conservative news outlet, pointing to a recent memo that asked three of his top aides to review any expenditures made on Pruitt’s behalf costing more than $5,000.
“The whole secure phone system was not something I was involved with. I didn’t approve that,” he said. “And the same thing on travel. Different issues where I’m having to answer questions about decisions that others made. And that’s not an excuse, that’s just reality.”
Pruitt has previously blamed the same issues and others on career staff at recent congressional hearings.
But he said the political left and other opponents of his aggressive deregulatory agenda are also at fault, an argument he has put forth previously with other right-wing outlets.
“This has been a bastion of the left for many years. This agency has been a safe haven in advancing against certain sectors of our economy,” he said.
“And to change that creates a lot of controversy, creates a lot of division, creates a lot of uncomfortableness with those who have grown comfortable with the agency over the years and grown comfortable with the way the agency does business. So I think that’s contributed to this.”
Asked if he remains in good standing with President Trump, Pruitt confidently answered in the affirmative.
“I think he’s [Trump] been very consistent there. I mean, he’s spoken very strongly and very consistently about our relationship and the work we’re doing at the agency,” Pruitt said.
“The president’s been very encouraging, very consistent, very strong and very supportive [of] me in this process.”