President Trump on Thursday threw a lifeline to embattled Environmental Protection Administrator Scott Pruitt, saying he’s a “good man” who’s done a “fantastic job.”
Asked by reporters whether he has confidence in the EPA boss, who is facing increasing pressure to resign over a growing number of ethical controversies, the president gave a brief yet clear answer.
“I do,” Mr. Trump said just before boarding Air Force One to travel to an event in West Virginia.
Later on Thursday in more extensive comments to reporters aboard the plane, the president gave a full-throated endorsement.
“I think he’s done a fantastic job,” Mr. Trump said. “I think he’s done an incredible job. He’s been very courageous. It hasn’t been easy, but I think he’s done a fantastic job,” he said.
Mr. Pruitt — who told the Washington Times on Wednesday that he believes his enemies inside and outside the EPA are trying to force him out of office — has been dogged by a seemingly never-ending series of controversies.
More than two dozen members of Congress, including two Republicans, have said he should resign after revelations he rented a $50-per-night condo from the wife of a prominent oil industry lobbyist.
He’s also come under fire for his use of first-class flights and a private taxpayer-funded security detail for personal family vacations.
In addition, he’s faced criticism for sidestepping the White House and pushing for raises for two top aides, though Mr. Pruitt insisted he didn’t know about those raises until seeing media reports this week.
Mr. Trump said he’ll “take a look” at all of the negative publicity swirling around Mr. Pruitt, but stands by him.
“I have to look at them,” he said. “I’ll make that determination. But he’s a good man, he’s done a terrific job. But I’ll take a look at it.”
Despite the president’s endorsement Thursday, White House officials have been lukewarm on Mr. Pruitt’s future, and have said that the ethical questions — specifically the condo rental — remain under review.
“I can’t speak to the future of Scott Pruitt,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley told Fox News Thursday. “The White House is aware of these reports and we’re looking into those. … We don’t have any announcements to make in regards to staffing right now.”
• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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