Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt was confirmed as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday in unusual and dramatic fashion. Several Democratic lawmakers are calling the hasty confirmation, organized by Senate Republicans, a ticking time bomb set to explode when a batch of Pruitt’s emails are released on Tuesday next week.
Democrats believe the content of those emails will bring a new scandal to the Trump administration. A state judge in Oklahoma ruled on Thursday, less than 24 hours before the Senate confirmed Pruitt as the new head of the EPA, to release 2,600 emails exchanged with oil, gas, and coal companies.
The lawsuit spurring the judge’s decision was filed last week by the left-leaning group Center for Media and Democracy.
Pruitt’s considered to be one of the most controversial cabinet members in the Trump administration. Several Democrats are predicting that Pruitt’s emails will reveal the extent of his already well-known ties to major fossil fuel companies.
Lawmakers are bracing for a potential email scandal to rock the Trump administration since the emails to be released come from the same time period an investigative report found Pruitt had questionable relationships with fossil fuel companies as attorney general more than two years ago.
An email exchange obtained by the New York Times in 2014 found that Pruitt sent letters to the EPA fighting back at the Obama administration’s energy policies. One of the letters sent to President Obama was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies.
“The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda.”
Democrats appear confident that Pruitt’s secret alliance will be revealed with the release of more emails on Tuesday. Politico reports that several top lawmakers are predicting a massive scandal to haunt the Republicans for days, months, and years to come.
“I don’t see any way his tenure at the EPA ends well,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said. “Time will tell and facts will [come] out, but I believe our Republican friends will rue the day that they had this nomination rammed through the Senate on the very day that the emails were being litigated in Oklahoma, in order to get ahead of any counterpressure.”
Two Democrats also voted for Pruitt’s confirmation knowing that emails could put them in a tough spot to win reelection in 2018. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota added to the final tally of 52-48 vote count in favor of Pruitt as the next head of the EPA.
“Sometime — a week from now, maybe days from now — my fear is that a number of members, especially on the other side, will have been put in a very bad position and asked to vote for a nominee that they otherwise may not have supported had they known.”
Every R who opposes extending debate today is responsible for whatever it turns out is in Pruitt’s emails next week. Make the right choice.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) February 17, 2017
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) February 17, 2017
Talk about cowardice. Republicans are trying to ram through Pruitt’s confirmation before the American people find out what is in his emails.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 17, 2017
Fox 25 reports that a separate batch of emails were released to them on Friday after an Open Records Request filed in 2015. The new emails appear to show Pruitt using a private email address to conduct state business.
“On multiple documents both to and from Pruitt the email addresses for Pruitt are blacked out. This type of redaction does not occur on the email addresses from Pruitt’s official government email account. The documents show he used multiple alias government email addresses.”
It’s unclear if Pruitt’s use of a private email address is against the law.
The last thing the Trump administration wants to deal with is another scandal in the wake of Michael Flynn’s resignation. If Pruitt is forced to step down as head of the EPA after an email scandal, not only would every lawmaker who voted for his confirmation be in political hot water, but the Trump administration would also be mired in another scandal similar to Hillary Clinton’s email situation that helped him win the 2016 election.
“[Republicans] were desperate for emails,” Whitehouse said. “But now, suddenly emails between a nominee’s office and the major players in the industry that he will be regulating as EPA administrator, all they do is look at the ceiling tiles.”
[Featured Image by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images]