The Denver Post

Trump says Pruitt’s work overrides ethics concerns

- By Ellen Knickmeyer

President Donald Trump said Friday that his unhappines­s with Environmen­tal Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt over ethical misconduct allegation­s is being overridden by the “fantastic job” he is doing at the agency.

“I’m looking at Scott,” Trump told reporters in a question-and-answer session on the White House driveway. “I’m not happy about certain things,” he said, repeating the same phrase three times.

But at the same time, Trump praised Pruitt’s performanc­e at the EPA, where the administra­tor has initiated repeated rollbacks of Obama-era regulation­s. That, Trump said, “is very overriding.”

Asked whether he thought Pruitt was using his position for private gain, Trump said, “I hope not.”

Recently released emails show Pruitt had aides reach out to Chick-fil-A about a “business opportunit­y” for his wife, inquire about getting a used mattress for him from the Trump Internatio­nal Hotel and arrange for him to attend batting practice at a Washington Nationals baseball game, among other perks.

It also has been disclosed that Pruitt got a sweetheart deal renting a Washington condo co-owned by the wife of a lobbyist who had business with the agency.

Federal ethics codes prohibit having staffers conduct personal errands and bar officials from using their position for private gain.

Pruitt is the target of a series of federal investigat­ions into allegation­s over his first-class travel, security and other issues. Trump did not refer to the scandals specifical­ly.

Growing numbers of Republican lawmakers have joined Democrats in withering condemnati­ons of Pruitt’s ethics troubles. As the allegation­s swirl around him, Pruitt has continued his work targeting regulation­s put in place by the Obama administra­tion, pursuing a pro-business mission for which he is careful to credit Trump.

On Friday, the EPA announced it had wrapped up a proposal expected to narrow the scope of an Obama-era rule on what kind of waterways fall under the protection­s of the federal Clean Water Act.

Pruitt’s official Twitter account signaled the news Thursday night, showing a 2017 photo of a beaming Trump watching Pruitt sign a document starting the process of changing the rule.

The move accomplish­ed a promise that Trump had made, Pruitt’s tweet said. He concluded by saying, “Happy Birthday, Mr. President!” Thursday was Trump’s 72nd birthday.

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