Journalist Nick Surgey, who has dug up dirt on Scott Pruitt for years, surfaced another doozy on Tuesday. Months before the last presidential election, Pruitt warned that Donald Trump would be a danger to the Constitution if he were elected president. “I believe that Donald Trump in the White House will be more abusive to the constitution than Barack Obama and that’s saying a lot,” Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general at the time, said in a February 2016 radio interview with Tulsa’s KFAQ. That is indeed saying a lot, as President Barack Obama has been Pruitt’s most frequent verbal punching bag since Pruitt became administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency nearly one year ago.
Pruitt blasted Trump over the idea that he might use executive orders if elected president. “[Obama] has basically taken an approach that says that if Congress doesn’t act or they don’t act the way that I want them to, then I can act in their place,” Pruitt said. “This, if Donald Trump is the nominee and eventually the president, he would take, I think unapologetic steps, to use executive power to confront Congress in a way that is truly unconstitutional.” Instead, Trump has used executive power to advance Pruitt’s agenda at EPA. In March, he signed the sweeping “Executive Order on Energy Independence,” which called on the EPA to review and potentially dismantle climate change regulations.
News of Pruitt’s comments broke as he testified before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, and within minutes, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse asked him about it. Pruitt claimed that he doesn’t remember saying that about Trump, and that he doesn’t stand by it either way.
Pruitt’s 2016 comments are further proof of how Republicans compromised their values to gain power in Trump’s Washington. They saw danger in his presidency, but also a professional opportunity for themselves. Pruitt was right that Trump is a threat to the Constitution, and he no longer feels that way precisely because Trump has enabled him to achieve his lifelong goal of gutting the EPA.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.