Scott Pruitt (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Scott Pruitt in 2016: Trump "will be more abusive to the constitution than Barack Obama"

Comments from a February 2016 interview came back to haunt the EPA head — and can haunt him more


Charlie May
January 30, 2018 5:16PM (UTC)

There was a time when current President Donald Trump was hated by his conservative base. Way back when, in the days before Trump accepted the Republican nomination and people's views on him started to change mightily, many had real concerns about him. One of those people was Scott Pruitt, who's now leading Trump's Environmental Protection Agency

In a newly surfaced interview from 2016, Pruitt slammed the then-candidate, suggesting Trump was a threat to the Constitution and that he was a "bully" and "dangerous."

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The comments came back to bite Pruitt as he was grilled during a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday morning.

Pruitt's remarks stemmed from an interview on Feb. 4, 2016, when Pruitt was a guest on "The Pat Campbell Show," The Washington Post reported. At the time, Pruitt was the attorney general of Oklahoma, as well as a policy adviser to Jeb Bush, who was contending for the GOP nomination.

"If Donald Trump is the nominee and eventually the president, he would take I think, unapologetic steps to use executive power to confront Congress in a way that is truly unconstitutional," Pruitt said. "I believe that Donald Trump in the White House will be more abusive to the constitution than Barack Obama and that’s saying a lot.

Asked if he was a Trump supporter, Pruitt said, "No."

He added, "I really believe he [Trump] would use a blunt instrument. This president [Barack Obama] at least tries to nuance his unlawfulness."

"Donald Trump has said many, many times they want . . .  I’ll do this I’ll do that. And those things that he’s mentioned cannot be done," Pruitt added. "I think executive orders with Donald Trump would be a very blunt instrument with respect to the Constitution."

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The interview was first posted online by the watchdog group Documented, described on its website as "a watchdog group that investigates how corporations manipulate public policy that harms our environment, communities, and democracy."

Pruitt had a hearing on Capitol Hill with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday and was grilled on his previous comments by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

Asked if he recalled the comments, Pruitt replied, "I don't." He added, "and I don't echo that today at all."

Trump's demand for loyalty has been well-known, and he has isolated those he has felt betrayed by, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions. After Rex Tillerson reportedly called the president a moron last summer — which infuriated Trump — the secretary of state was on the outs, and his status in the administration has never fully recovered.

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Then again, Pruitt's interview comments were a little under a year prior to Trump taking office, and he's vociferously championed the president's agenda since then. So maybe Trump will let bygones be bygones and attribute the remarks to the heat of the campaign battle.

Maybe.

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Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

MORE FROM Charlie May

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Barack Obama Congress Documented Epa Loyalty Oklahoma President Donald Trump Scott Pruitt Watchdog

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