President Donald Trump expressed support for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Friday but said the embattled Cabinet member is not “blameless” for his many ethics controversies.
“Scott Pruitt is doing a great job within the walls of the EPA. I mean, we’re setting records,” Trump told reporters before departing the White House for the G-7 summit in Quebec. “Outside he’s being attacked very viciously by the press, and I’m not saying that he’s blameless, but we’ll see what happens.”
A series of damaging reports have indicated that Pruitt routinely used taxpayer-salaried aides for personal business. Some lawmakers have said Pruitt sought to use his official position to financially benefit his family.
Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that Pruitt had his scheduler reach out to Chick-fil-A chief executive Dan Cathy to set up a call, during which the EPA leader pitched the fast-food executive on granting his wife a franchise of the restaurant.
Pruitt has also faced ethics questions over his use of agency employees to book personal travel, attempt to purchase a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel, and to run personal errands, including a city-wide search for a particular brand of moisturizer. Pruitt also used agency employees to help him find housing in Washington, and previously has faced criticism for an unusual arrangement in which he rented a room from the wife of a lobbyist who worked with the EPA but paid only for nights he slept in the Capitol Hill apartment.
Pruitt has blamed subordinates for a series of controversial spending decisions, including first-class travel and the installation of a secure phone booth in his office at a cost of $43,000.
Earlier this week, two top aides who won controversial raises worth tens of thousands of dollars — against the opposition of the White House — resigned from the EPA.