Lankford Says Pruitt’s EPA Job Depends on Ethics Probes and President Trump

Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford sounds like he supports Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency. But in an interview with OK Energy Today, the Senator also made it clear it’ll be up to President Trump and the outcome of two major ethics probes into Pruitt.

“I don’t see Scott moving positions within the administration, but I do see the ongoing ethics investigation getting completed and given to the President,” he answered when questioned about Pruitt’s status. Some have claimed President Trump has floated Pruitt’s name as a possible replacement for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

He compared Pruitt’s situation to that of Tom Price, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services who too was caught up in a scandal about his travel expenses. After it was reported that Price had racked up more than $1 million for travel on private charter jets and military aircraft, Price, a former congressman, resigned in September 2017.

In some respects, the political coverage of the Price scandal is what led to reporters digging into Pruitt’s own travel expenses and his choice to fly first class.

As Sen. Lankford pointed out about Price, “It wasn’t a challenge about how he was doing his job. He was doing an excellent job but it was a challenge about how he was handling his office and finance and ethics.”

This is same dilemma that Pruitt, the former Oklahoma Attorney General is facing.

“Scott’s on the staff and the President’s made it very clear that he’s doing exactly the job he wanted him to do. He’ll have to determine if there’s been an ethics violation or if there’s been a lot of misreporting and half truths,” said Sen. Lankford.

The Senator admits it’s not been an easy job for Pruitt to take over an agency that “left quite a mess.” He pointed out how there were issues where the EPA had pushed beyond its boundaries.

“There’s a lot of work that Scott’s been doing,” added the Senator who pointed to the focus on Superfund sites that have existed for decades, including the Tar Creek site in northeast Oklahoma.

“All of these need to be resolved in a long term,” he said.

But is Pruitt’s ego the real issue here, as suggested the New York Times and Politico in stories this week?

“I think most of the battle around Scott has been about policy, more than it is about Scott. The ultimate issue is that it’s more about policies and people just don’t agree with the policies.”

Are environmentalists to blame for the dirt dug up on Pruitt?

“Sometimes environmentalists and those on the other side of ethanol—there’s all kind of enemies,” answered the Senator. “When you start dealing with the environment or ethanol, it’s not hard to find very strange bedfellows. People you think would be against each other are now together.”

Listen to the Senator as he was interviewed by Jerry Bohnen.