The recent resignation-in-disgrace of Trump Administration National Security Advisor (NSA), Michael Flynn, and the resulting damage to the country could have been avoided. If the President and his advisers had looked at Flynn more carefully before he was appointed to head the NSA (and assuming that they even cared about what they would have found), they would have realized that the conflicts created by Flynn’s unusual coziness with the Russians would explode in their faces, and badly damage our national security interests.
Are Trump and his people about to screw up again?
Trump has nominated to head the federal EPA Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma. And, in typical Trump fashion, the President is insisting that Pruitt’s nomination be rushed through the Senate, despite the growing number of warning signs screaming that Pruitt’s coziness with big oil and gas companies is going to result in another disastrously conflicted Presidential appointee. For example:
·As Oklahoma’s AG, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times, typically alleging that the EPA was acting illegally in trying to limit the ability of oil and gas companies to pollute.
·Some of those cases are still pending. So, if approved to head the EPA, Pruitt will “switch sides” in the lawsuits that he filed against the EPA. Will he-now on behalf of the EPA-stop fighting the cases, or, worse, admit that the EPA does not have the legal right to limit oil and gas company pollution?
·The oil and gas companies have given Pruitt hundreds of thousands of dollars in political campaign contributions.
·They gave much of that money to Pruitt shortly after he filed lawsuits against the EPA which were aimed at enhancing the oil and gas companies’ ability to pollute, and thereby increase their profits.
·Pruitt collaborated in filing those suits with oil and gas companies.
·On at least one occasion, Pruitt asked an oil and gas company to ghost-write an important letter for him, which Pruitt dutifully put on his Attorney General’s stationery and signed it, as though he had written it himself.
And here’s the really big one to be concerned about: Pruitt doesn’t want to turn over some 3,000 email communications he has had-mostly with the oil and gas companies– while he was Oklahoma’s Attorney General. Understand now that these emails are public records. They are emails he wrote and received as a taxpayer-paid public servant (Attorney General); they belong to the public. Yet, when US Senators who will be asked to vote on whether Pruitt is qualified-ethically and otherwise-to head the EPA asked Pruitt to turn over the emails, Pruitt said “no”. He told the Senators that they could file a Freedom of Information Act request—which would mean that, if the Senators got the emails at all, they would most likely get them after Pruitt is confirmed.
Apart from the historical fact that nominees like Pruitt have routinely provided records to Senators upon their request, Pruitt’s refusal to turn over the emails is a huge red flag. What do the emails say? Do they show Pruitt-while nominally working for the people of the State of Oklahoma-really doing the bidding of the oil and gas companies? Do they expose the kinds of conflicts of interest that tell us that Pruitt wants to run the EPA, not for the benefit of the people who need to be protected against pollution, but instead for the benefit of the biggest polluters of all-the oil and gas companies that he has worked so hard to help while Oklahoma’s Attorney General?
There is an easy solution here: either the Senate should reject Pruitt right now, for refusal to provide the emails, and tell the President to nominate someone else, or table Pruitt’s nomination until the Senators have a chance to read the emails.
Otherwise, we may soon see “Michael Flynn, the Sequel.”