Scott Pruitt out as Environmental Protection Agency head

Kristoffer Tripplaar  Sipa via AP

Kristoffer Tripplaar Sipa via AP

From this point of view, Pruitt acted with impunity reminiscent of a kleptocratic ruler of a small republic - a republic called the EPA, which is supposed to be safeguarding clean air and water for the United States. Investigators on Capitol Hill had summoned current and former EPA aides for interviews, as part of the more than dozen federal inquiries into Pruitt's spending and management of the agency.

Supporters for Pruitt's nomination included conservative advocacy groups and Republicans who say the EPA's regulatory overreach burdens industry.

In the resignation letter that Pruitt sent to President Trump, he said "it is extremely hard for me to cease serving you in this role".

"The unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us", Pruitt said in his resignation letter.

White House advisers promptly shot down Pruitt's proposal, it was reported.

Trump tweeted Thursday that EPA deputy Andrew Wheeler would "assume duties as the acting administrator of the EPA".

Wheeler was a lobbyist for Murray Energy, among the largest coal companies in the country. "That was the position he was originally interested in". Arriving in Washington, he worked relentlessly to dismantle Obama-era environmental regulations that aimed to reduce toxic pollution and planet-warming carbon emissions.

His tenure at the agency lasted more than a year. Those groups applauded his departure.

Although Pruitt's exit had always been expected, a member of Pruitt's staff told Newsmax an hour before Trump's tweet that "he's not going anywhere anytime soon".

But revelations about his behavior continued to mount, including reports that he repeatedly enlisted subordinates to help him search for housing, book personal travel and even help search for a six-figure job for his wife.

He also ordered the installation of a secure telephone cabin in his Washington office at the cost of US$43,000 (S$58,700 euros) which critics found excessive. He also demanded 24-hour-a-day protection from armed officers, resulting in a swollen 20-member security detail that blew through overtime budgets and racked up expenses of more than $3 million.

As recently as June 8, Trump praised Pruitt, telling reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that the EPA administrator was "doing a great job within the walls of the EPA", and that "we're setting records".

He has been under scrutiny for renting an apartment with ties to a fossil fuels lobbyist. In April, after Oval Office remarks in which he lauded the EPA's work, he reportedly turned to Pruitt and said: "Knock it off".

He was confirmed by the Senate on February 17, 2017, on a 52-46 vote, the most recorded "no" votes of any EPA administrator.

On May 1, two of Pruitt's employees at the EPA resigned during an ongoing ethics investigation. Some 170 lawmakers signed a resolution calling for Pruitt to resign. As head of the EPA, he lobbied Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions and make him the replacement.

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