EPA Bureaucrats Complain Pruitt Doesn't Want Them to Conspire Against Trump

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt / Getty Images
December 19, 2017

EPA bureaucrats are running to the New York Times to complain that Administrator Scott Pruitt doesn't want them conspiring against him or President Donald Trump.

"E.P.A. Employees Spoke Out. Then Came Scrutiny of Their Email," the Times writes breathlessly, implying that Pruitt himself is scouring over their emails. (He's not.)

Readers have to get to the 17th paragraph to realize that the "scrutiny of their email" was from a Republican lawyer outside the agency who filed Freedom of Information Act requests after the bureaucrats had very publicly blasted Trump and Pruitt.

But for the Times, it's a "witch hunt" against career bureaucrats, and three star-crossed employees bold enough to speak out against Trump:

One Environmental Protection Agency employee spoke up at a private lunch held near the agency headquarters, saying she feared the nation might be headed toward an 'environmental catastrophe.' Another staff member, from Seattle, sent a letter to Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, raising similar concerns about the direction of the agency. A third, from Philadelphia, went to a rally where he protested against agency budget cuts.

Three different agency employees, in different jobs, from three different cities, but each encountered a similar outcome: Federal records show that within a matter of days, requests were submitted for copies of emails written by them that mentioned either Mr. Pruitt or President Trump, or any communication with Democrats in Congress that might have been critical of the agency.

Another take: people notice when employees publicly criticize their boss. And if it's in politics, Republican operatives might want to know if employees are actively working to sabotage a Republican administration.

The Times doesn't mention that the bureaucrats—Elizabeth Southerland, Michael Cox, and Gary Morton—all either leaked to liberal news outlets to criticize Pruitt and Trump, or attended "resistance" rallies.

Allan Blutstein, the lawyer who is vice president of FOIA Operations at the Republican group America Rising, told the Times that he submitted the requests for "employees who had made public statements critical of Mr. Pruitt."

"He said he wanted to know if any of them had used agency email inappropriately, or had violated agency rules in some other way — findings that he could use to compromise efforts to undermine Mr. Pruitt's work,'" the Times wrote.

"Compromise efforts to undermine Mr. Pruitt's work." Read another way: Republicans want to see if these career bureaucrats who hate Pruitt are working to sabotage the administration.

I wonder why Republicans would worry about that?

"Washington Bureaucrats Are Quietly Working to Undermine Trump's Agenda," Bloomberg reported Monday, just a day after the Times defense of the three resistance bureaucrats at the EPA.

Bloomberg writes, "Some of the roughly two million career staff have found ways to obstruct, slow down, or simply ignore their new leader, the president."

The article even prints one career bureaucrat's "checklist" for resistance. Joel Clement, a former bureaucrat in the Department of Interior, says others should start "leaking documents," and "slowing down the implementation of the policy," after first trying a "legitimate approach before you obstruct," of course.

The Times says now bureaucrats are living under a "wave of fear," and that they could get in trouble for tweeting "critical comments" against EPA management. (Maybe don't bad mouth your boss on social media.)

But the employees the Times highlighted don't have much to worry about.

Southerland and Cox took early retirement. Both went to a liberal Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson to publicize their dissatisfaction when they were on their way out the door.

Cox leaked his anti-Trump letter in April, which the Post ran under the headline, "EPA staffer leaves with a bang, blasting agency policies under Trump."

In his letter, Cox said he was "frankly insulted" that President Trump would visit the EPA, and that Trump did so to "give us the finger." He called the Trump administration "arrogant and callous," and accused Pruitt of having "not done your homework" on the Paris climate deal."

"Fortunately," Cox wrote, "there are other global leaders, including China and India, who understand the urgency of the problem and are taking action."

Blutstein filed a FOIA request on Cox a few days after Cox went to the Washington Post.

In August, Southerland leaked her complaints against the Trump administration to the Post, claiming she was retiring in protest. She claimed EPA wouldn't be able to do the "right thing" under Trump. A FOIA request was filed the next day.

It turns out Southerland was not retiring in protest of Trump, but said in emails that she "needed to retire to help out with family medical care."

As for Morton, he's the head of an EPA government union who has said, "The EPA as we know it might not exist any more" because of Trump.

"His emails were targeted seven days after he participated in a union rally in March challenging proposed budget cuts," the Times reported.

The Times fails to mention it was a "resistance" rally, organized by Morton's union the American Federation of Government Employees.

"This is a witch hunt against E.P.A. employees who are only trying to protect human health and the environment," Morton now says.

I'd call it a "resistance hunt." And it's not that difficult when you do it out in the open.

Published under: EPA , Scott Pruitt