President Donald Trump reaffirmed and elaborated on his praise for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt upon Pruitt’s resignation Thursday.
Trump spoke with reporters on Air Force One as they headed for Montana and a Trump campaign rally in Great Falls.
“Scott Pruitt did an outstanding job inside of the EPA,” he told reporters, echoing his tweet that announced Pruitt’s departure.
“We’ve gotten rid of record breaking regulations and it’s been really GOOD,” he said of the EPA under Pruitt’s leadership. “You know, obviously the controversies with Scott, but within the agency we were extremely happy.”
Asked if there was any “final straw” that forced Pruitt out, Trump replied, “No final straw.” He called Pruitt a “terrific guy” and said, “he came to me and he said I have such great confidence in the administration. I don’t want to be a distraction.” Trump said he thinks Pruitt “felt that he was a distraction.”
The choice to resign was “very much up to” Pruitt, Trump said. The decision on stepping down had been in the works for “a couple of days,” said Trump. “We’ve been talking about it for a little while.”
“He’ll go on to great things and he’s going to have a wonderful life, I hope. But he felt that he did not want to be a distraction for an administration that he has a lot of faith in,” President Trump said of Pruitt’s future.
President Trump turned attention to the man who will, at least temporarily, take over Pruitt’s duties as Acting EPA Administrator, Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler has served as Deputy Director under Pruitt.
“[Pruitt’s] deputy has been with me actually a long time,” Trump said, pointing out that Wheeler served on the Trump campaign. “He was very much an early Trump supporter. He was with us on the campaign. He is a very environmental person. He’s a big believer, and he’s going to do a fantastic job.”
Wheeler will start work as Acting EPA Director on Monday, according to Trump.
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