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Trump bemoans how Pruitt is ‘TOTALLY under siege’

White House officials said this week President Donald Trump is pleased with EPA head Scott Pruitt’s (right) efforts to roll back environmental regulations at the agency, but some said many are getting frustrated with Pruitt’s series of scandals. | Andrew Harnik/AP

The president also denies a CNN report that he recently considered replacing Sessions with Pruitt.

Updated

President Donald Trump on Friday voiced fresh support for his embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, saying he is doing a “great job,” while blasting reports that he has considering replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Pruitt.

“Do you believe that the Fake News Media is pushing hard on a story that I am going to replace A.G. Jeff Sessions with EPA Chief Scott Pruitt, who is doing a great job but is TOTALLY under siege?” the president wrote. “Do people really believe this stuff? So much of the media is dishonest and corrupt!”

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According to a CNN report, Trump recently floated replacing Sessions atop the Justice Department with Pruitt, even as the EPA chief battles deepening ethics scandals over his lavish travel habits, security costs and coziness with lobbyists.

Pruitt has expressed interest in Sessions’ job to friends and associates, sources familiar with the discussions told POLITICO in January. The EPA at the time denied that Pruitt was looking to move from his perch, but the political maneuvering rankled administration officials.

In recent days, Pruitt’s job security has become the subject of intense speculation as his ethics scandals have piled up. Numerous reports have detailed how he rented a $ 50-a-night condo room from a pair of lobbyists, how he allegedly sidelined aides who questioned his expensive travel and security costs, and how he reportedly asked for sirens and lights to speed up his trips around Washington, including to a trendy French restaurant.

The latest allegations came on top of inspector general investigations that are already looking into Pruitt’s taxpayer-funded travel, his use of a special hiring authority, and his spending on a soundproof phone booth for his office.

While Pruitt has enjoyed a generally warm relationship with Trump — in part because he has aggressively rolled back Obama-era regulations — West Wing officials have grown increasingly frustrated by the stream of negative headlines. They have also been irritated by Pruitt’s blatant attempts to save his job, including a round of interviews with conservative media outlets in which he vigorously defended his actions and blamed a “toxic” Washington opposed to Trump’s agenda.

Trump so far has publicly backed his EPA chief and has appeared to sympathize with the notion that political forces are undermining Pruitt. On Thursday, the president praised him for doing a “fantastic job” at the agency, telling reporters he still had confidence in the Cabinet member.

“I think he’s done a fantastic job. I think he’s done an incredible job,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “He’s been very courageous. It hasn’t been easy, but I think he’s done a fantastic job.”

The president added that he would “take a look” at the recent spate of damaging reports about Pruitt and would make a “determination” on the matter. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters earlier this week that the issue was under review.

Though the president has publicly expressed support for Pruitt, Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, has considered firing the EPA administrator in the coming months, a senior administration official told POLITICO.

Separately, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Friday called on Pruitt to resign, saying that he had “displayed a staggering ethical blindness.” She was joined by 64 Democratic lawmakers, who penned a letter to the president urging him to dismiss the EPA chief.

Scott Pruitt (left) and Donald Trump are pictured. | AP Photo

“Scott Pruitt’s unethical behavior, wasteful use of taxpayer money, and his efforts to undermine the EPA’s core mission to protect our environment and public health demand an appropriate response: his resignation or his firing,” wrote the group led by Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.).

While liberals called for Pruitt’s firing, a group of prominent conservatives praised Trump for standing by the EPA leader.

“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.”

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