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Man behind Trump’s Paris accord exit steps down over reports of rampant spending, ethics violations

US Environment Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who had convinced President Donald Trump to exit the Paris climate accord backed by India and China, is said to have indulged in excesses such as first-class travel at the state’s expense and installation of a $49,000 phone booth in his office.

world Updated: Jul 06, 2018 23:43 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,Paris accord,rampant spending
Scott Pruitt (right), a fervent climate-change sceptic, was instrumental in rolling back the Obama-era environmental regulations which, according to the Republican Party and President Donald Trump, were stifling American manufacturing and industries such as coal mining. (AFP/File Photo)

Scott Pruitt, the Trump cabinet member in charge of environment who had pushed the President to exit the India-backed Paris climate accord, resigned on Thursday amid unrelenting scrutiny over ethics and spending.

Pruitt, administrator of the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), was asked to step down by the White House in the light of news reports of alleged excesses — including first-class travel by him and his family at the state’s expense, installing a soundproof phone booth worth $49,000 in his office, and hunting for a lucrative job for his wife. Besides this, he was also said to have sent staffers on personal errands such as shopping for his favourite moisturising lotion and acquiring used mattresses from the Trump International hotel.

Pruitt — a fervent climate-change sceptic — was instrumental in rolling back the Obama-era environmental regulations which, according to the Republican Party and the president, were stifling American manufacturing and industries such as coal mining.

“Within the agency, Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this,” Trump wrote on Twitter, announcing his acceptance of Pruitt’s resignation. Reports say that he, however, did not speak to the EPA administrator regarding his decision.

Scott had built his career and reputation as an Oklahoma state attorney general by suing the very department he would come to head years later. And at the EPA, he delivered on President Trump’s election promise of rolling back former premier Barack Obama’s aggressive measures on environment, including coal mining, fuel efficiency and emission regulations.

But among them, Pruitt was proudest about the role he played in the Trump administration’s decision to exit the Paris climate accord — a legacy agreement forged by Obama after prolonged negotiations with other top polluters such as China and India.

“The president showed tremendous fortitude, tremendous courage to stand in the Rose Garden in June and say: ‘You know what? I’m going to put America first’,” Pruitt said at a conference of conservatives shortly after.

It was a momentous occasion for him, indeed. He had managed to persuade the president to leave the accord, overriding opposition from Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner – both of whom are also close advisors to the president. He had practically over-ridden the First Family.

Trump, who might not have needed much persuasion given his own scepticism of climate change and antipathy to everything Obama, then went ahead and denounced both India and China — two countries courted avidly by the former president to clinch the ambitious climate change accord — in his announcement speech.

Declaring the United States’ exit from the accord on June 1, just days before his first meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trump lamented that “India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries”.

“India can double its coal production. We’re supposed to get rid of ours,” he went on to say.

Pruitt probably did not write those words, but he never disowned them.

First Published: Jul 06, 2018 10:34 IST