Conservative leaders are urging President Donald Trump to stand behind embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt, organizing for the first time to present a unified front in defense of a Trump Cabinet official.
In a letter delivered to the White House on Friday, the group of prominent conservatives thanked Trump for sticking with Pruitt, one of their ideological brethren, and said, in essence, that Pruitt’s policy accomplishments make him worth the trouble.
“The days of a rogue, agenda driven EPA are over,” the group wrote. “Scott Pruitt is a bold, capable manager and is right for this job. His record shows you made the right choice picking him. We are certain he will guide EPA through the coming years of your Administration as a courageous and qualified administrator.”
The letter was signed by the leaders of 10 influential conservative organizations, including former attorney general Edwin Meese, William Walton of CNP Action, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Michael Needham of Heritage Action, Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks, Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund, Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center, and David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth.
“This is the conservative movement coming forward and saying this guy is rock star,” said a strategist involved in crafting the letter. “I have not seen a more united conservative front on behalf of a cabinet member since the Reagan Administration."
Pruitt has been dogged by ethics scandals for months over his lavish spending on travel and security, and is facing multiple EPA inspector general investigations. The scrutiny intensified in recent days, after news broke that he rented a $50-a-night condo from a lobbyist couple.
Since then, the damaging stories have kept coming. He reportedly sidelined aides who questioned his travel and security costs and has been accused of requesting sirens and lights to speed his trips around Washington.
The allegations are in addition to the IG investigations probing Pruitt's taxpayer-funded travel, his use of a special hiring authority, and his spending on a soundproof phone booth for his office.
Even as White House officials have soured on Pruitt — POLITICO reported earlier this week that chief of staff John Kelly has considered the firing of Pruitt in the coming months — Trump has publicly supported the EPA chief.
“I think he’s done a fantastic job. I think he’s done an incredible job,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday. “He’s been very courageous. It hasn’t been easy, but I think he’s done a fantastic job.”