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Cracks grow in GOP support for US EPA head over alleged scandals

Support from key conservatives for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt appeared to continue to wane on June 13 as some Republican lawmakers called for a hearing on numerous alleged scandals and both a major conservative media outlet and popular Fox News radio host said Pruitt should step down.

Republican Sen. James Inhofe, who has for a long time supported Pruitt, in a radio interview with conservative pundit Laura Ingraham stopped short of calling for Pruitt's resignation. But he said his fellow Oklahoman might need to resign if scandals continue piling up. Ingraham, a Fox News television and radio host, in a tweet that same day took things a step further and said that because Pruitt's bad judgment is hurting President Donald Trump, the administrator has "gotta go."

Politico has reported that Ingraham is one of 46 people Trump follows on Twitter and she recently dined with Trump's son and some conservative activists at Trump's hotel in Washington, D.C.

Pruitt is the subject of more than a dozen congressional and EPA inspector general investigations into his spending on security and first-class travel, his use of staffers for personal errands, and cheap condo rental from the wife of a lobbyist. Support for Pruitt is also starting to diminish among other Republican lawmakers and conservative-leaning news outlets.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, in a tweet said she supports Inhofe's call for a hearing on Pruitt's scandals. Ernst urged the president "to take a hard look at Mr. Pruitt's actions — as I do not feel that Mr. Pruitt is serving [Trump's] best interests."

And the National Review in an editorial said that the latest claim that Pruitt may have used government employees to secure a job for his wife and to get a discount on a mattress is one of many reports of behavior that is "bizarre or venal."

The barrage of alleged scandals "makes it practically impossible for Pruitt to make the case for the Trump administration’s environmental policies — a case that we continue to believe deserves to be made," the National Review said. The editorial said Pruitt should be replaced by EPA Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who would become acting administrator if Pruitt leaves voluntarily or is forced to resign.

This is not the first time cracks have begun to show in GOP support for Pruitt. Trump in recent comments departed from his standard response of giving high praise to Pruitt. Trump on June 8 said that Pruitt has been "attacked very viciously by the press, and I'm not saying that he's blameless, but we'll see what happens."

Also, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in May suggested Pruitt should clear the air and answer some "legitimate questions" around the alleged scandals.

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment.