Friday, July 06, 2018

Yesterday Ed Schultz Died And Trumpanzee Finally Fired Pruitt


Ed Schultz died yesterday, age 64. I used to love watching him on MSNBC. I lost track of him since they fired him, although I stumbled onto a YouTube of his recently on that Russian propaganda network he was working for-- and I was appalled. It's better not to mention what I saw. Instead, let's remember that MSDNC fired him because he had planned live coverage of Bernie's announcement of his presidential campaign in 2015. He was at Bernie's headquarters with a crew, preparing for a remote, when he was told by phone to cancel the live coverage and cover something inconsequential. He was fired soon after that. As for the Russian propaganda thing... everyone's gotta make a living, I suppose. It's just that when you feel you "know" and trust someone from the mass media, you have expectations which are painful to see shattered. Trump isn't shattering any of his fans' expectations. The moron from the TV show is the moron they voted for and the moron the rest of us-- and the world-- are all stuck with. Speaking of which...

Where were you when you first heard Trump had finally pulled the plug on Pruitt? Our friend Skip Kaltenheuser had some mixed feelings about the news: "Actually, I’m disappointed to see Pruitt go," he told me. "It’s not often one gets a neon sign spelling venality." How about you? Were you reading Trump's twitter feed? I think Evan Halper of the L.A. Times got the story out first, although he referred to it as a resignation rather than a firing, more Beltway dishonesty that fool no one but fools. The "scoop," though, was just a report on Trump's tweet: "Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, one of the most scandal-plagued Cabinet officials in U.S. history, is leaving the agency, President Trump tweeted Thursday."

The good news is that Pruitt is gone and the bad news is that Andrew Wheeler, his deputy, take over Monday, as acting administrator. Trumpanzee: "I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!"

Wheeler is a former coal-industry lobbyist. Jeff Turrentine, back in April: "If you’re hoping Wheeler could represent some sort of departure from Pruitt’s (literal) scorched-earth agenda, he wouldn’t. While it may be impossible to imagine anyone worse than Pruitt to lead our nation’s environmental policy, plenty of individuals could be just as bad. And as he’s shown us on numerous occasions, President Trump has a sixth sense for ferreting these people out and putting them on the executive-branch payroll. So who is Andrew Wheeler? And what is it about his particular career trajectory that makes the White House, energy-company executives, and assorted climate deniers think he’s a perfect fit for the Trump-era EPA?... In his spare time, Wheeler serves as the vice president of the Washington Coal Club, a powerful yet little-known federation of more than 300 coal producers, lawmakers, business leaders, and policy experts who have dedicated themselves to preserving the uncertain future of our dirtiest fossil fuel."

The departure of the anti-regulatory crusader ends a bizarre and tumultuous chapter of the Trump administration that puzzled even some of the president’s staunchest supporters.

The spendthrift EPA chief has been a political liability for the White House for months, drawing the attention of federal investigators with scandal after scandal, many of which were linked to his lavish spending of taxpayer money and the use of his position to enrich his family. Pruitt leaves the post the target of more than a dozen official probes.

The transgressions span from Pruitt’s deal with the wife of a top energy lobbyist for deeply discounted housing, huge raises he gave friends against the instructions of the White House and his penchant for flying first class. Pruitt used his office to try to secure his wife a Chick-fil-A franchise and also enlisted aides to try to help her land lucrative work elsewhere. He had a $43,000 phone booth installed in his office.

“Scott Pruitt’s corruption and coziness with industry lobbyists finally caught up with him,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group. “ We’re happy that Pruitt can no longer deceive Americans or destroy our environment.”

The executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington issued a one-word statement: “Good.”

Though President Trump initially backed Pruitt and prominent conservatives had lobbied to keep him in place, the scandals eventually made Pruitt too much of a liability for the administration.

Pruitt has been seen by conservatives as among Trump’s most effective Cabinet members, aggressively dismantling clean water and air rules, working from the inside to weaken the agency’s authority and rolling back the Obama-era climate action loathed by fossil fuel companies.

The latest Cabinet shuffle reflects a remarkable turnabout for Pruitt, once a rising GOP star. The EPA position was seen by Pruitt’s allies as a launchpad for bigger ambitions, such as a run for the Senate or Oklahoma governorship, and possibly even the presidency.

But that political future has been thrown into doubt amid investigations into behavior the White House was unwilling to defend, such as the unauthorized purchase of the soundproof phone booth meant to deter eavesdroppers.

The departure is a blow to anti-regulatory activists eager to see the rules of the Obama era scrapped. Several of the battles Pruitt launched against regulations, such as the aggressive fuel economy standards championed by California and the federal Clean Power Plan aimed at reducing electricity plant emissions, are likely to endure for years. The Trump administration already was sprinting to get the rules rewritten and through court challenges before the next presidential election.

The shake-up could slow that work and give environmental groups and the coalition of states fighting Pruitt’s agenda an advantage.

Still, in his short time at the EPA, Pruitt managed to do more to undermine the environmental protection work of its career scientists, analysts and enforcement officers than any leader of the agency since the early days of the Reagan administration. And the appointment of former coal industry lobbyist Wheeler as acting head ensures the Pruitt agenda will endure. Former agency chiefs-- including some who served GOP presidents-- expressed alarm at Pruitt’s climate denialism and his hostility toward many bedrock environmental rules.

“I have no doubt and complete confidence [Wheeler] will continue the important deregulatory work that Scott Pruitt started while being a good steward of the environment,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), adding Wheeler worked for him for 14 years.

Pruitt often was unabashedly at war with his own agency, alleging it was under the control of activist bureaucrats working in tandem with environmental groups to impose a radical agenda. When his ethics problems became insurmountable, he blamed his troubles on those same forces, accusing them of manufacturing controversy to thwart his deregulation push.

But concern about Pruitt’s ethics issues ultimately reached the White House, where Trump advisors worried his spending habits and management undermined Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp” of government waste and corruption. Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, a Trump ally, said in June that Pruitt “is about as swampy as you get.”

The housing arrangement, which Pruitt likened to “an Airbnb situation,” allowed him to stay in a condo a block from the Capitol for $50 a night, paying only for nights he was in town-- far below market rates for such a room.

Pruitt also helped two of his confidants secure giant pay raises against White House instructions. After getting turned down by the White House, the EPA granted the raises by invoking a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act that allowed Pruitt to make up to 30 hires without White House or congressional approval. The salary of one of the aides was boosted to $164,200 from $107,435. The other saw a salary increase from $86,460 to $114,590.

As the housing and salary hike controversies emerged, Pruitt already was battling fallout from his tendency to fly first class for government travel, and also arranging his taxpayer-funded trips so he could spend weekends at his home in Oklahoma. Pruitt said security concerns demanded he fly in the luxury cabin, but it was a clear departure from the practice of past EPA leaders. A member of his security detail said flying in coach exposed him to angry members of the public.

Reports that Pruitt sidelined EPA staffers who objected to his requests for special treatment didn’t help his case. The Pruitt requests that caused staff to bristle, according to the New York Times, included the blaring of government vehicle sirens to cut through traffic on routine trips, his first-class plane trips and a security detail three times the size of that of his predecessors. There also was a request for a bulletproof vehicle with tires resistant to gunfire.

As Pruitt struggled to explain it all, more scandals kept emerging. Emails obtained by the Sierra Club revealed how Pruitt had his staff schedule a meeting with the CEO of Chick-fil-A, with the goal of landing his wife a franchise. Reports emerged that he tasked them with such things as acquiring a used mattress, tracking down the luxury skin lotion he prefers and using their personal credit cards to cover his hotel bills.

By July, it was clear that even some of Pruitt’s most loyal aides would no longer protect him. They detailed for congressional investigators more of the agency chief’s questionable conduct, including tasking aides with finding his wife a job. The White House communications staff had long since stopped defending Pruitt, and so had many conservatives.

Yet Trump continued tweeting his praise. Now, it seems, even the president has had enough of the turmoil Pruitt added to his administration.
Elizabeth Warren was more to the point. "I'm glad that Scott Pruitt resigned," she wrote moments after Trump tweeted the announcement. "A man who doesn’t believe in climate change never should have been in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency in the first place. And a government official that corrupt should have been fired by the President of the United States 28 scandals ago. But let’s get real: Donald Trump’s cabinet is full of people who have no business running their agencies. Betsy DeVos at the Education Department. Steve Mnuchin at Treasury. Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department. Mick Mulvaney and his part-time work at OMB and the CFPB. And now Scott Pruitt’s temporary replacement at the EPA is a longtime Washington insider and corporate lawyer who’s done the bidding of fossil fuel companies for decades. The only way to stop Donald Trump from filling his cabinet-- and the courts-- with people who work against the interests of the American people is to take back control of the Senate this November."

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At 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the meantime, the "democratic" Party continues to push GOP-lite corporatists as our candidates and tell us we must hold our noses and vote for them.

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

RIP Ed Schultz


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