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Need to Know: EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Resigns Amidst Ethics Investigations

Facing inquiries into 20 separate accusations, Pruitt stepped down as America’s top environmental regulator, marking the latest turnover in Trump’s rotating cabinet.

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Photo via Gage Skidmore

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt has resigned from Donald Trump’s cabinet, citing constant public criticism as the impetus for his decision.

"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 in a letter to Trump. "However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us."

According to CNN, Pruitt gave his resignation papers to the president on Thursday, handing the agency’s reins to deputy director Andrew Wheeler. Like Pruitt, Wheeler has a controversial track record when it comes to the environment, having previously worked as a lobbyist for the coal industry.

In his short tenure as EPA administrator, Pruitt repeatedly drew criticism for not only his focus on dismantling environmental regulations, but also for repeated personal missteps. At the time of his resignation, federal officials continue to investigate Pruitt for at least 20 separate alleged violations of ethics, spending, and special interest rules.

While serving the American public, Pruitt paid just $50 per night to rent a Washington D.C. condo owned by an energy lobbyist, installed a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his EPA office without congressional approval, and repeatedly spent public funds on first-class plane trips, among a variety of other indiscretions.

Despite continuous speculation that Pruitt would step down and frequent calls for his resignation from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, the EPA director clung to his cabinet position for months after investigations began. Throughout the entire process, Trump stood tall at Pruitt’s side, supporting his appointee both before and after Thursday’s resignation.

"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."

In addition to Pruitt’s taxpayer-funded spending sprees and shady dealings with energy industry insiders, the now-resigned EPA head used his position to deregulate environmental protections, bringing his climate change-denying worldview into the realm of policy. In October, Pruitt withdrew the Clean Power Plan, a program put in place by the Obama administration to limit greenhouse gas emissions across the country.

Earlier this year, rumors spread that Trump was considering ousting Attorney General Jeff Sessions and appointing Pruitt as his replacement, but those whispers never came to fruition, and it appears that Pruitt’s resignation will mark the end of his tenure in the Trump administration.

As Americans continue to publicly chide members of Trump’s administration, Pruitt’s reason for resignation only bolsters the argument that unabashed shaming can have a real-world effect on national policymakers.