EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigns

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned after months of ethics controversies, President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday. CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.

Posted: Jul 6, 2018 9:58 PM
Updated: Jul 6, 2018 10:08 PM

When Scott Pruitt "resigned" as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, only one relevant question jumped to mind: What the hell took so long?

After all, Pruitt is -- or, maybe was -- the subject of 14 separate probes into his conduct as EPA administrator. Fourteen! Separate! Probes! From almost the moment he was sworn in to lead the EPA, Pruitt has been caught -- time and time again -- apparently trying to enrich himself (and his wife and everyone else he knows) using his office. That is, when he wasn't flying first class -- or private -- in order, allegedly, to avoid people who wanted to confront him about his policy decisions. Or ordering younger aides to put things on their credit cards. Or get him a certain kind of hand lotion he liked. Or look into securing a Chick-Fil-A franchise. Or renting a room in an energy lobbyist's house for $50 a night. (Worth noting: Pruitt didn't just turn into this guy when he arrived in Washington; he was like that in Oklahoma as well, as documented by this terrific New York Times story.)

And yet, day after day, terrible headline after terrible headline (after terrible headline), Pruitt stayed in the job. The White House would insist Trump was "troubled" by all of these accusations against Pruitt and that they were conducting some sort of review -- and yet as days turned into months, everyone -- including Republicans across Washington -- wondered why Trump didn't jettison his most troublesome Cabinet secretary.

Here are four theories aimed at answering the "what took so long?" question.

1. Pruitt did exactly what Trump wanted. Trump campaigned on the idea that the EPA has turned into liberals' dream of overregulation of average people. He picked Pruitt to undo many of the regulations the Obama administration had put in place on things like coal and water. According to an analysis by Politico of Pruitt's first year in office, the EPA either withdrew or delayed regulations 47 times -- a massive increase from the 14 withdrawals/delays in the first year of the Obama administration. Pruitt was effectively deconstructing the regulatory state. And so, Trump liked him.

"While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!" Trump tweeted in April. Days before, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders offered up this on Pruitt: "The President thinks he is doing a good job, particularly on the deregulation front."

2. Trump saw some of himself in Pruitt. Pruitt is brash and unapologetic about his views and his conduct. And in both Oklahoma and Washington, that willingness to speak his mind made establishment types very nervous. And once Pruitt was in Washington, he was the focus of a seemingly endless stream of negative news coverage, which he insisted was false and driven by liberals who wanted him to fail. Sound like anyone else you know?

3. There were so many problems, they canceled themselves out. There's a great scene in "The Simpsons" where Mr. Burns, the decrepit old tycoon, goes to the doctor. After a checkup, the doc informs Mr. Burns that he is "the sickest man in the United States. ... You have everything." And yet, Mr. Burns is perfectly healthy. How? Because all of his ailments are blocking each other from attacking his body; "All of your diseases are in perfect balance," the doctor tells the astounded Burns.

I've been thinking about Scott Pruitt in those terms for a while now. There are so many problems, so many ethical issues, so many bad stories that they all sort of cancel each other out. As in: No one could follow all of the various transgressions committed by Pruitt. The sheer number of allegations may well have led Trump to sort of tune them out -- under the belief that they couldn't all be true.

4. Trump is a contrarian -- in this and all things. When the news of Pruitt's "resignation" hit the White House, there was reportedly cheering from some of the staff. For months, Trump had been urged to get rid of Pruitt by virtually everyone on his senior staff. Trump views himself as at his best when he is going against the crowd, bucking the conventional wisdom. If everyone is saying "X," Trump is naturally drawn to "Y" -- even if in a vacuum he would choose "X."

Even when he spoke about Pruitt Thursday afternoon aboard Air Force One, Trump was unwilling to criticize the former EPA head. "He'll go on to great things and he's going to have a wonderful life, I hope," Trump said of Pruitt. "But he felt that he did not want to be a distraction for an administration that he has a lot of faith in."

The truth is that some combination of these factors is what kept Pruitt in his job for as long as he stayed. As Trump said Thursday afternoon, there was "no final straw" in the Pruitt situation. (Sidebar: If Pruitt actually resigned of his own free will, why would there be any straw at all?) The most likely scenario is that Trump's patience simply wore out; he got tired of defending Pruitt and gave into advisers' wishes that the EPA chief be sent packing.

That Pruitt is gone is not at all remarkable. That he stayed for so long really is.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 8049
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Hennepin1396591852
Ramsey58216942
Dakota51771493
Anoka47702478
Washington30460309
Stearns24688240
St. Louis20106335
Scott19489144
Wright18332163
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Carver1198951
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Benton638799
Mower551838
Winona549552
Goodhue546180
Douglas530084
Itasca512870
Beltrami496972
Steele496321
McLeod495262
Isanti487170
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Becker427459
Freeborn426438
Lyon390654
Carlton387259
Nicollet371947
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Mille Lacs351760
Brown343543
Cass340335
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Todd318334
Meeker301749
Waseca286025
Martin259033
Wabasha23984
Dodge23833
Roseau229723
Hubbard226841
Houston201616
Renville198247
Redwood195641
Fillmore190710
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Wadena182723
Faribault177625
Cottonwood175824
Sibley173910
Chippewa169839
Kanabec163529
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Aitkin153838
Rock137919
Jackson134112
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Swift116419
Murray114810
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Marshall100918
Clearwater100218
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Wilkin89014
Lac qui Parle84624
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Mahnomen6629
Lincoln6424
Norman6319
Kittson53122
Unassigned53093
Red Lake4667
Traverse4205
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Cook2060

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 426400

Reported Deaths: 6339
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk67341672
Linn25698353
Scott22828261
Black Hawk19121334
Woodbury16940233
Johnson1659690
Dubuque14547218
Pottawattamie13058183
Dallas12746102
Story1187148
Warren685993
Webster6304102
Cerro Gordo6212102
Clinton620097
Des Moines594482
Muscatine5781108
Marshall564280
Sioux542775
Jasper516575
Lee511078
Wapello4993128
Buena Vista472942
Marion449083
Plymouth434083
Henry339940
Jones331158
Bremer325365
Crawford321644
Carroll317053
Washington315754
Benton312656
Boone308736
Mahaska275453
Dickinson270846
Kossuth251471
Jackson246044
Clay245729
Tama238273
Delaware234643
Buchanan233938
Hardin230847
Page221624
Cedar220525
Fayette220345
Wright217641
Winneshiek215937
Hamilton211752
Harrison198875
Clayton194458
Madison193820
Butler188836
Floyd187742
Mills185224
Poweshiek181036
Cherokee179440
Iowa176425
Allamakee176252
Lyon174441
Jefferson169138
Calhoun168313
Hancock167335
Winnebago164231
Grundy158835
Cass155556
Louisa154949
Shelby151739
Appanoose151249
Emmet149541
Franklin148524
Humboldt147226
Sac144722
Union144237
Mitchell141643
Guthrie138132
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Palo Alto131124
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Montgomery122239
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Howard115622
Monroe114033
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Pocahontas99023
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Worth9268
Osceola83717
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