(CNN)Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned after months of ethics controversies, citing “the unrelenting attacks” on himself and his family, which “have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”
“I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,” Trump tweeted. “Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this.”
Pruitt’s resignation follows months during which the EPA administrator has been embroiled in one ethics controversy after the next.
“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!” Trump tweeted.
On Air Force One en route to Montana later Thursday, Trump voiced support for Pruitt, saying the allegations against his EPA head did not bother him but he accepted the resignation because Pruitt believed they had become a distraction.
“There was no final straw,” Trump said. “Scott is a terrific guy. He came to me and he said, ‘Look, I have such great confidence in the administration. I don’t want to be a distraction.’ “
Trump said Pruitt had approached him about resigning “a couple of days” prior and that the decision was “very much up to” Pruitt.
Asked if there was anything about the accusations against Pruitt that troubled him, the President said, “No.”
“He’ll go on to great things,” Trump said. “He’s going to have a wonderful life, I hope.”
Cloud over Pruitt
An ethics cloud hung over Pruitt for months, as lawmakers from both parties, environmental groups and government watchdogs raised questions about his spending, housing arrangements, security team and raises for political appointees.
Pruitt’s resignation letter to Trump offered regret about leaving the role, but said “unrelenting attacks” had taken a toll.
“It is extremely difficult for me to cease serving you in this role first because I count it a blessing to be serving you in any capacity, but also, because of the transformative work that is occurring,” Pruitt wrote. “However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”
He added, “My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God’s providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people.”
Two EPA officials told CNN they found out about Pruitt’s resignation from Trump’s tweet and had no idea the news was coming.
Pruitt had lost the confidence of many career and political EPA appointees, but many of those eager to see him go had begun to lose hope that he would resign or be pushed out by the President.
“Still in shock to be honest,” one EPA official told CNN. “Incredible that he lasted as long as he did.”
All told, Pruitt left EPA having faced more than a dozen inquiries or reviews into his practices at the agency, including his first-class plane travel, a room that he rented from a lobbyist at $50 per night and the installation of a soundproof booth in his office.
A spokesman for the EPA’s Office of Inspector General told CNN that ongoing or pending reviews of Pruitt will continue, even though he has resigned.
“Any ongoing or pending OIG reviews related to the Administrator and/or his team will continue—regardless of the Administrator’s resignation,” the spokesman said.
But at the same time, Pruitt was one of the most effective implementers of the President’s agenda. Coming into office as a critic of EPA and a climate skeptic, Pruitt moved aggressively to scale back Obama-era moves on climate change, automobile pollution standards and other industrial pollutants.
Turn to the right
Pruitt, an Oklahoma Republican, came to the job as one of the EPA’s chief critics and was seen as someone philosophically at odds with the agency Trump tapped him to run.
While serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt was one of the chief architects of the legal battle against Obama’s climate change policies and repeatedly sued the agency. He described himself in his biography for that job as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
Along with Trump, who once said that “global warming was created by and for the Chinese,” Pruitt oversaw the efforts to dismantle major climate regulations. Trump announced at the beginning of June last year that he would withdraw the US from the Paris climate accords.
Inquiries and reviews into Pruitt’s practices at EPA
Pruitt incurred a sizable number of investigations into his spending and practices at EPA, including inquiries by the House, Senate, the EPA itself and the White House. Among them were inquiries into Pruitt’s travel practices, spending within the agency and use of email.
A different EPA inspector general review involves Pruitt’s travel practices, suggesting that it will review Pruitt’s use of his round-the-clock security detail, which travels with him even when off-duty on family vacations.
Separately, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has asked EPA to justify Pruitt’s use of first or business class seats on flights.
Both the EPA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) are reviewing an April 2017 meeting that Pruitt had with the National Mining Association regarding the Paris climate agreement, which critics said may have violated anti-lobbying laws.
Several reviews have to do with Pruitt’s use of email. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, began looking into reports that Pruitt had four EPA email addresses, at least one of which was not disclosed. EPA’s inspector general said in May that it would review Pruitt’s use of multiple email accounts, at the request of Senate Democrats.