President Donald Trump announced Friday that he will nominate acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler as the permanent replacement for Scott Pruitt, the former EPA chief who resigned amid a flurry of ethical scandals.
Trump spontaneously spilled the news while introducing Wheeler and other members of his Cabinet during a Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House.
“Acting administrator, who I will tell you is going to be made permanent. He’s done a fantastic job and I want to congratulate him, EPA Andrew Wheeler, great job,” Trump said, seemingly in passing.
It was not clear if Wheeler had been informed beforehand of Trump’s intentions; EPA spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment. Wheeler, 53, will have to be confirmed by the Senate before he can officially take on the post.
Wheeler, who has served as the acting EPA chief since Pruitt stepped down in July, has courted some controversy of his own.
Last month, it was revealed Wheeler used his private social media accounts to like racist photos of former President Barack Obama and retweet a notorious far-right conspiracy theorist.
Like Pruitt, Wheeler is a climate change skeptic and used to work as a fossil fuel lobbyist before joining the federal agency that is supposed to regulate such industries.
Pruitt delivered his resignation in response to a seemingly never-ending stream of scandals that included exorbitant taxpayer-funded travel, security and accommodation costs, questionable raises for loyal deputies and other bizarre management moves.
Even Trump conceded Pruitt had become a bit too embattled once he finally stepped down.
“You know, obviously the controversies with Scott but within the agency we were extremely happy,” Trump told reporters hours after Pruitt’s resignation. “He’ll go on to great things and he’s going to have a wonderful life, I hope.”
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