The truth about Donald Trump’s scandal-plagued designee to deconstruct the Environmental Protection Agency, climate-science denier and corporate errand boy Scott Pruitt, will begin to be revealed on Tuesday. So the Senate rushed on Friday to confirm Pruitt as the nation’s new EPA administrator. Even in the #AlternativeFacts universe that is Donald Trump’s Washington, that may look like a bizarrely irresponsible rejection of basic duties.
But in the US Senate that Mitch McConnell has remade to serve as a rubber stamp for Trump’s presidency, the bizarrely irresponsible rejection of basic duties is now standard operating procedure.
Senate Democrats tried on Friday morning to restore a measure of order. They asked to extend deliberations on the Pruitt nomination, so that the Senate could have an informed debate. They had every reason to request the extension. On Thursday afternoon, as the Senate was beginning what would turn out to be the final (if woefully incomplete) review of the Pruitt nomination, Oklahoma County District Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons found evidence of an “abject failure” on the part of Pruitt, in his role as state attorney general, to abide by the Oklahoma Open Records Act.
Timmons ordered Pruitt to release his communications with the oil, gas, and coal industry insiders. For two years, Pruitt had withheld more than 2,500 e-mails with fossil-fuel interests, which had been requested by an investigative-reporting group, the Center for Media and Democracy. Judge Timmons gave Pruitt’s office until Tuesday, February 21, to release the e-mails. She also gave the office 10 days to release related materials that might reveal controversial or inappropriate contacts between the hyper-partisan attorney general and interests regulated by the EPA.
Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a former state attorney general, went to the floor of the Senate Friday and explained how the e-mails could help to shed light on Pruitt’s involvement with dark-money campaign groups that have sought to prevent open and honest debate about climate change and a host of other environmental issues that are overseen by the EPA. “Not only has dark money poisoned our conversation about climate change, this guy ran his own dark money operation,” said Whitehouse. “His ‘Rule of Law Defense Fund,’ a 501 C-4 organization that does not disclose its donors, has been linked to the Koch brothers, who run one of the biggest polluting operations in the country. But we don’t really know [the details of that link because] it’s been kept absolutely quiet.”