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Pruitt fears White House undermining him ahead of hearings

Embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt believes members of the administration are actively tryi...

Posted: Apr 26, 2018 3:17 PM
Updated: Apr 26, 2018 3:17 PM

Embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt believes members of the administration are actively trying to get rid of him, two sources with knowledge of the situation tell CNN. The mounting acrimony spurred Pruitt's to reject offers from the White House to help him prepare for his expected grilling on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Pruitt and his staff have blamed the White House, in part, for several of the leaks of damaging information about him. In recent days, they rejected offers from the White House press shop to prepare for his hearings because they don't think the staff can be trusted not to leak information about the prep session.

Pruitt was incredibly frustrated, one source said, after Bloomberg reported that White House officials were advising Republicans to temper their support of Pruitt.

This reveals the disconnect between the embattled EPA chief and the rest of the administration. Pruitt is under the impression that the only person who fully supports him is President Donald Trump as he comes under fire for multiple ethics scandals and faces a harsh grilling on Capitol Hill.

The EPA administrator continues to weather a growing number of news reports about ethically questionable actions, including such issues as the size and cost of his 24-hour security detail, and a meeting he held with a lobbyist while renting a $50-a-night Capitol Hill room from the lobbyist's wife.

The President has continued to ardently defend him in private. Though Trump concedes that the swirling negative headlines aren't good, he often remarks that there is "no way" he would get someone as good as Pruitt confirmed. Another reason Trump has yet to turn on Pruitt is what he's hearing from friends and advisers in the oil and gas industry, such as Harold Hamm, a long-time energy mogul, who has urged him to leave Pruitt in place.

But Pruitt has lost the confidence of most members of the senior staff, several of who have conceded privately that they aren't defending Pruitt for fear that another damaging story will break. Many aides now view the EPA administrator as an unnecessary problem who has only made matters worse for himself by ignoring White House offers to help him remedy the situation, according to people familiar with the matter.

The White House and the EPA declined a CNN request for comment.

Though Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump once advocated for Pruitt in the early days of the administration, both have questioned what happened to him. White House chief of staff John Kelly has not changed his view that Pruitt should go, but hasn't continued to press the case with the President as investigations remain ongoing.

Most senior aides believe those probes, which include the White House Counsel's office, will not exonerate Pruitt. To the contrary, most of Trump's top advisers believe they will provide a damning account of his actions as administrator.

Pruitt's saving grace remains his record at the EPA, which his backers have worked to talk up to Trump when they speak with him. That is what has saved him up until now. But a rocky televised appearance on Capitol Hill could change that, officials said.

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