Scandal-ridden EPA administrator Scott Pruitt finally resigned Thursday amid at least 14 investigations into his sordid misuse of taxpayer funds and outright corruption, becoming the latest appointee exposed in the most corrupt presidential administration in modern times, if not the entire history of America.
Pruitt’s misuse of power, which continued unabated while Donald Trump and the Republican Congressional leadership looked the other way, has been called “a range of scandals not seen since the Teapot Dome affair.”
Writes right-wing columnist Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post:
His corruption was astounding — from his order of a $43,000 soundproof booth to first-class air travel at taxpayers’ expense to a $50-a-night condo rental from a lobbyist’s spouse to his use of aides to run errands on government time to his pursuit of a cushy job for his wife, there seemed to be no item that was too small to snatch and no item too big to turn down. In any other administration, he would have been gone months ago.
He has not divested himself of ongoing businesses which he continues to profit from. He continues to receive foreign emoluments, although multiple lawsuits seek to end what may be a constitutional violation. And the president has employed relatives who have their own conflicts, such as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, giving foreign governments the impression that they could use his financial situation to advance their interests with the U.S. government.
In other words, a perfect appointee for a corrupt president like Donald Trump.
The most dishonest and corrupt administration in about a century is only marginally improved by the departure of Pruitt. Only with serious oversight (which likely will come only from a Democratic majority in one or both houses) can we hope to fumigate the administration. In the meantime, Congress needs to beef up ethics reporting and enforcement, make disclosure of the president’s tax returns mandatory and stiffen penalties for violations of ethics rules. Only then will we restore a modicum of normalcy to the government, which has come to resemble a corrupt banana republic.
Norman L. Eisen, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Noah Bookbinder, executive director of that group and a former federal corruption prosecutor, say Pruitt’s problems could well be the start of the end of the corrupt reign of Trump.
Given the extent of Mr. Pruitt’s scandals and the damage he leaves behind, it is a wonder that he survived so long. Some may point to the fact that he doggedly pursued Mr. Trump’s environmental agenda, including the shredding of Obama-era commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions in the power and transportation sectors, but we are not convinced — after all, that effort didn’t work out as well as he had hoped.
A more likely explanation is that Mr. Trump did not want to let Mr. Pruitt go because the president was afraid of what it might mean for him. Mr. Trump too has endured in the face of mounting investigations and litigation. Between the Russia investigation, Michael Cohen’s potentially impending cooperation with the government, and a raft of civil cases, Mr. Trump surely knows that the legal flood around him is rising. Did he put off firing Mr. Pruitt because he was afraid to admit the taint of scandal on his administration?
While the media, and the Democrats, were getting all worked up about the mattress and the lotion and Chick-fil-A and Disneyland and the phone booth and the bulletproof seats and the rest of Pruitt’s penny-ante corruption, relatively little attention was going to the emoluments, which are of much greater value: Ivanka Trump’s trademarks and Jared Kushner’s investors and foreign governments pumping millions into Trump properties.
Now Pruitt is gone, and Trump is about to be caught with his tactical pants down.
We can hope.
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