Scott Pruitt resigned as EPA chief Thursday after White House Chief of Staff John Kelly delivered a message from the president that it was time for the scandal-plagued administrator to leave, according to two people familiar with the situation.
Pruitt didn’t want to leave his post and was described as being devastated that he had to resign, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing a personnel matter.
President Donald Trump wanted Pruitt to leave, after revelations that the administrator’s public schedule had been altered to shield some meetings from public view, they said. Doctored schedules—which could be a criminal violation of the Federal Records Act—were effectively the final straw after a tenure marred by alleged ethical missteps. The administration knew that more damaging reports would emerge soon, one of the people said.
Trump ultimately announced Pruitt’s departure on Twitter at 3:37 p.m. Thursday, saying the EPA chief had done an “outstanding job.” Later, Trump said Pruitt chose to resign because he felt he was a distraction. “It was very much up to him,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One. “We’ve been talking about it for a little while.”
Top White House advisers have been encouraging Trump to dismiss Pruitt for months, amid mounting allegations of unethical conduct, improper spending and abuses of power. And Trump discussed the idea with people close to him several times, as he sharpened his public criticism of Pruitt’s activities.
An early June disclosure that a top EPA aide helped Pruitt try to buy a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel was particularly embarrassing to the president, one of the people said.
But Pruitt was caught off guard by Kelly’s call and flummoxed by his request to resign, one of the people said. Just one day earlier, Pruitt had been celebrating Independence Day at the White House.
On Friday, his final day in office, Pruitt was back at the EPA building in downtown Washington to say goodbye to aides.
Spokespeople for the EPA didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.