Scott Pruitt is at the center of a political firestorm that may see him removed from the Trump administration. It’s a stark turn of events for the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has seen himself as on a mission from God.
The former church deacon is an adherent of a religious dogma that holds that the Earth’s resources are man’s divine inheritance. Pruitt blasts the environmental movement’s push to keep fossil fuels in the ground as "wrongheaded." In a February interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, Pruitt elaborated: "The biblical worldview with respect to these issues is that we have a responsibility to ... harvest the natural resources that we've been blessed with, to truly bless our fellow mankind."
This belief guided Pruitt as he pushed Trump to exit the Paris Climate Accords, to shelve the Clean Power Plan, and most recently, to roll back fuel efficiency targets for automakers. Pruitt insists his career in politics was born of prayer – and the question, "God what do you want to do with me?" This heavenly mission just happens to align with the profit motives of the nation’s fossil fuel producers, which backed his career in Oklahoma with more than $350,000 in donations.
When it comes to global warming, Pruitt preaches a gospel of ignorance. In a February TV interview, Pruitt pooh-poohed the notion that climate change is an "existential threat," insisting: "We know that humans have most flourished during times of — what? — warming trends. So I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming that that’s necessarily a bad thing." Thumbing his nose at efforts to curb global temperature rise, Pruitt said it was "arrogant" for man to think we know what the ideal temperature should be.
But there’s a strange contradiction at the heart of the EPA chief’s makeup. Pruitt’s messianic streak, his sense of divine righteousness, is paired with an intense paranoia that he will be struck down by godless greenies. Denouncing his Democratic predecessors for "weaponizing" the EPA against energy producers, Pruitt seems convinced that environmental activists are out to get him – with real guns.
The evidence is both compelling and bizzare. Consider that Pruitt sought to have a bullet-proof desk installed at his office, according to the New York Times, which reports the administrator also sought to travel in a bullet-proof SUV – with tires that could survive gunfire.
These details follow on revelations that Pruitt has tripled his predecessor’s security detail – ramping up to an estimated 20 bodyguards – to provide him with 24-hour protection, at salaries, CNN estimated, of nearly $2 million per year. Pruitt’s security entourage has accompanied him at public expense on non-official trips, including to Disneyland, the Rose Bowl, and visits home to Oklahoma. The tab for his security staff to protect him on an official trip to Italy was more than $30,000.
Pruitt has also been racking up huge travel bills, flying first class for what the EPA alleges were security reasons. Pruitt similarly has refused to publish his daily schedule in advance, "due to security concerns." Pruitt seems convinced that his lurking enemies are spying even inside EPA headquarters; he spent more than $40,000 of taxpayer money to construct a sound-proof phone booth in his Washington office.
Pruitt’s paranoid devotion to his personal security predictably led to false alarms. In March 2017, Pruitt’s bodyguards reportedly busted down the door of the condo he rented in D.C. when they could not reach him on his cell phone. They found him awaking from a nap.
This same condo – rented for a paltry $50 a night from a lobbyist whose clients reportedly had business before the EPA – is at the center of a growing scandal of alleged corruption and excess. Pruitt reportedly demanded a slew of presidential-style perks, including sirens to speed his motorcade through crowded D.C. streets to make a dinner reservation at the brasserie Le Diplomate.
If Pruitt had been dreaming of a potential 2024 White House run, his divine path may instead be hitting a dead-end of his own paranoid excess. White House chief of staff John Kelly has reportedly called for Pruitt’s ouster. Top deputies are leaving in droves. For the moment, President Trump is sticking by the man he’s trusted to dismantle the EPA, and whom he’d reportedly viewed as a potential upgrade to Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
Friday morning Trump fired off a tweet of encouragement that, too, seemed to buy into Pruitt’s exaggerated fear of external dangers: Pruitt is "doing a great job," Trump wrote, "but is TOTALLY under siege."