America desperately needs the congressional wing of the Republican Party to stand up for our Republic. America needs Congress to impeach Scott Pruitt.
Our constitutional system of checks and balances — the essential mechanism put in place by the Founding Fathers to prevent tyranny — is broken if the equal branches of government fail to hold the others accountable.
The perfect place for the Republican Congress to begin again to fulfill its constitutional duty would be to impeach and remove Pruitt, the utterly corrupt administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
‘The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.’
Rooting out corruption is a constitutional duty; it should not be a partisan issue. In fact, political parties have a particular obligation to clean up their own messes, if only out of self-interest.
It’s true that accusations of corruption have at times been motivated by partisan purposes (Whitewater, anyone?), but that doesn’t negate the fact that both parties have generally acted to clean their own houses once the stench was obvious.
It used to be that a public official would quietly resign after being credibly accused of corruption, misappropriation of funds, or malfeasance. That’s what then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price did in September 2017 after it was revealed that he had misused government funds by chartering planes instead of flying coach as required by regulations.
Resigning is what dozens of top executive branch officials throughout our history — Democrats and Republicans alike — have done when a scandal broke: They resigned in shame as soon as it was clear that they had become a liability to their party and their president. Even the whiff of scandal was often enough.
Even Albert Fall, the interior secretary who pocketed bribes from his oil-industry buddies nearly a century ago in the infamous Teapot Dome scandal, resigned under pressure from his fellow Republicans long before he was found guilty in court and cooled his heels in prison for nine months.
But Scott Pruitt — who is like Teapot Dome on steroids — has not resigned. He doesn’t seem to have any sense of shame at all. If Trump won’t fire him, the Congress should impeach him and remove him from office, as their duty requires.
There are currently more than a dozen investigations into Pruitt’s blatant disregard for the laws, customs and morals of public service. A new outrage seems to surface daily. If these accusations are true, Pruitt is unfit for office.
Impeachment is not a finding of guilt. It’s akin to an indictment. It’s a legal process to force an official to stand trial and, if convicted by the Senate based on the evidence, to be removed from office forever more.
Wasting time and money
According to the credible allegations, Pruitt has not just taken bribes from lobbyists and allowed them to write policy, he’s wasted government money, time and resources on his own personal needs.
A lobbyist gave him use of an apartment at far-below market rent. He asked lobbyists for help in getting his wife lucrative business deals, and to get tickets to the Rose Bowl.
He wasted government funds on excessive security measures, including a large 24/7 security detail and an expensive high-tech phone booth.
He had the government pay for personal travel. In one case, he had subordinates pay for his travel.
He ordered government employees to run personal errands for him, such as buying his special moisturizer and picking up his laundry. He ordered one employee to buy a used mattress from a Trump hotel. He has punished employees who questioned his spending, and rewarded others who abetted him. He lied on official documents about his schedule.
But Pruitt hasn’t resigned. Nor has he been fired by President Donald Trump, who has fired dozens of other officials for much smaller faults. Trump may like Pruitt because he’s doing a great job defiling the environment, or he may like him because Pruitt takes the attention away from Trump’s own countless ethical and legal lapses.
To its credit, Congress has held hearings into Pruitt’s reprehensible behavior but little has come of it. A few Republicans have called for him to resign, including Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy and Maine Sen. Susan Collins and handful of representatives. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa wants him fired, but over a policy dispute, not over his ethical lapses.
The Republican congressional leadership has been fairly silent, even though House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were quick to ask for thorough investigations and resignations when it came to Democrats.
Ryan actually claimed that he hadn’t been following the Pruitt scandal, which, if true, is a damning indictment of his leadership.
Some environmental groups have been calling for Pruitt’s impeachment for a while, but they’re asking for Pruitt to removed not for his corruption but for rejecting global warming and rolling back environmental protections.
That’s a foolish demand, because you can’t change those policies by getting rid of Pruitt. Trump and the Congress agree with Pruitt on those policies; it’s what they promised to do, and anyone who replaced Pruitt would implement those same policies.
‘Drain the swamp’
Trump and the Republicans did not promise corruption. In fact, Trump promised he would “drain the swamp.” He promised to get rid of corrupt officials. Getting rid of Pruitt because he’s corrupt ought to help the Republican brand, which is increasingly seen as wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization.
I understand the Republicans’ hesitation on this. They’ve been forced to accept a lot of things from Trump that aren’t normal.
Before Trump, no Republican would have accepted a president refusing to release his tax returns before the election. Before Trump, no Republican would have accepted a president who refused to divest his business holdings into a blind trust. Before Trump, no Republican would have accepted a president who appointed his family business partners to high positions inside the government. Before Trump, no Republican would have accepted a president who had such disdain for the rule of law. Before Trump, no Republican would have accepted foreign interference in our elections.
Republicans may think they need to accept Trump’s violations of normal and ethical behavior, but there’s no reason for them to accept such violations from Scott Pruitt.
At some point, the Congress may have to stand up to Trump, or see the republic fail. The Republicans need to practice having a backbone. Pruitt is a politically easy place to begin. If they need more practice, they could hold accountable a lot of other administration officials who’ve abused their office, including Wilbur Ross, Ryan Zinke, Ben Carson, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, not to mention POTUS himself.
By indicting Scott Pruitt, putting him on trial and convicting him based on strong evidence, the Republican Congress would show that it takes its oath of office seriously, and that there are some legal and ethical lines that cannot be crossed.
That’s a mission statement that all Americans need to hear — especially Donald Trump.