When Wheeler was confirmed, Pruitt praised him in a statement, writing, "Andrew Wheeler has spent his entire career advancing sound environmental policies and I look forward to him bringing his expertise and leadership to the agency".
That particular proposal was shot down by federal regulators, but with Pruitt's help, the Trump administration has made inroads on most of that plan's 16 points, with devastating consequences to the environment-including the United States pullout from the Paris climate accords, the rejection of Obama's Clean Power Plan, and slashing the staff of the EPA down to a level not seen since the 1980s attacks on the agency by President Reagan. He also invoked religious overtones in likening Trump's presidency to "God's providence".
"There's never been more of a threat to liberty, you know, to what we know as the protections that are inherent in our Constitution than what we live today", Pruitt told CBN's Chief Political Correspondent David Brody. However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us. It's this notoriety and insider savvy that could make Wheeler risky; unlike Pruitt, who was relatively new to Washington when he took the job leading the EPA, Wheeler could continue to work closely with old friends.
He's been investigated for undertaking expensive, first-class global travel with a large detail, and for spending $43,000 to build a soundproof phone booth in his office.
But revelations about his behavior continued to mount, including reports that he repeatedly enlisted subordinates to help him search for housing, book personal travel and even help search for a six-figure job for his wife.
Now that Pruitt has resigned, any reports the IG office provides won't carry as much weight since ethics violations are typically met with an administrative action.
One of the energy companies that the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency worked for as a lobbyist is seeking contracts from the agency, raising questions among environmentalists about whether he can put his past behind him as he becomes the nation's top environmental protector.
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"Previously, when we did stuff like this, when the person who's the target resigned, we'd usually kind of stop, because you've got your goal", said a former House Oversight Committee staffer. Trump probably believes that because Pruitt has been doing Trump's bidding in subverting the EPA's mission to protect human health and the environment.
On Friday, his final day in office, Pruitt was back at the EPA building in downtown Washington to say goodbye to aides.
The problems will continue for both men: Pruitt still faces a dozen investigations and must file forms disclosing his income -and his wife's.
"Going from a train wreck to a house on fire doesn't give us comfort", Deans says.
"I think it's well deserved that he's getting this criticism", said Young.