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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

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 926931

Reported Deaths: 9740
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1809132056
Ramsey749811054
Dakota68505591
Anoka64961589
Washington41119367
Stearns34021287
St. Louis29939416
Scott26281188
Wright26260226
Olmsted22677131
Sherburne19206130
Carver1687671
Clay12219108
Blue Earth1162171
Rice11578139
Crow Wing11318124
Chisago1005281
Kandiyohi9913108
Otter Tail9908130
Benton9174128
Beltrami8249100
Goodhue822699
Douglas7967101
Itasca779999
Mower740049
McLeod723384
Winona715158
Isanti711085
Steele695034
Morrison678681
Becker631675
Polk608987
Freeborn569947
Carlton552577
Mille Lacs539479
Lyon532961
Nicollet528561
Nobles527954
Pine521143
Cass505255
Todd496443
Brown473661
Le Sueur464736
Meeker437960
Martin391344
Waseca381433
Wabasha380110
Dodge366412
Hubbard357649
Roseau320532
Fillmore310115
Wadena306040
Redwood283845
Houston275317
Renville271651
Faribault261835
Sibley256017
Pennington254830
Kanabec254437
Cottonwood232933
Aitkin225052
Chippewa222043
Pope209910
Watonwan201121
Yellow Medicine189925
Koochiching179225
Rock178429
Swift174124
Stevens170211
Jackson162016
Clearwater159421
Marshall154822
Murray152911
Pipestone150929
Lake134124
Lac qui Parle124425
Wilkin122016
Mahnomen108314
Norman10579
Grant102410
Big Stone9585
Lincoln8915
Kittson74623
Red Lake71810
Traverse6086
Unassigned563124
Lake of the Woods5285
Cook3141

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 532160

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk81677809
Linn32838430
Scott27126295
Black Hawk22334382
Woodbury20736263
Johnson20150108
Dubuque18996243
Pottawattamie16215214
Dallas15573115
Story1398059
Warren8637107
Cerro Gordo8141125
Clinton7928115
Webster7419124
Des Moines7153106
Marshall675494
Muscatine6717117
Wapello6546145
Unassigned64520
Jasper630591
Sioux622477
Lee5977106
Marion567697
Buena Vista503449
Plymouth493388
Henry427155
Benton414760
Jones413564
Bremer403873
Boone397042
Washington395464
Carroll373355
Mahaska372366
Crawford355647
Jackson324047
Dickinson317555
Buchanan312743
Delaware303255
Clay297636
Kossuth293477
Fayette290356
Hardin289253
Tama282878
Page276133
Wright270050
Cedar269527
Winneshiek267744
Hamilton262757
Floyd261049
Clayton252360
Poweshiek242043
Harrison240979
Madison237425
Butler237346
Cass235667
Iowa234336
Jefferson228544
Mills225330
Hancock222840
Winnebago222339
Cherokee217347
Appanoose210157
Lyon209842
Allamakee209456
Calhoun199519
Shelby199542
Union197141
Humboldt188231
Franklin188031
Grundy186137
Chickasaw184522
Mitchell184343
Emmet180146
Louisa178653
Sac175626
Guthrie169338
Clarke163629
Montgomery163146
Keokuk152639
Palo Alto152332
Howard150624
Monroe144340
Ida134141
Greene128818
Davis126825
Lucas126127
Monona124940
Worth12309
Pocahontas122125
Adair118239
Osceola105718
Decatur104813
Taylor100914
Fremont98913
Van Buren95922
Wayne86125
Ringgold78429
Audubon77617
Adams5869
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