Given EPA chief Scott Pruitt's lengthy record of "lying his ass off" about climate change for the benefit of his pals in the fossil fuel industry, one could be forgiven for believing that he is incapable of honesty.
But leaked audio from a radio interview Pruitt gave in February 2016—in which he said Donald Trump "would be more abusive to the Constitution than Barack Obama"—appears to provide evidence that he is, in fact, "capable of telling the truth."
"It's sad that Donald Trump is likely more upset about Scott Pruitt's accurate portrayal of him than Pruitt's relentless attacks on clean air, clean water, and the health of the American public."
—Michael Brune, Sierra Club
According to a transcript of the interview made public by the corporate watchdog group Documented for the first time on Tuesday, Pruitt—then Oklahoma's attorney general—also agreed when radio host Pat Campbell characterized Trump as "dangerous" and a "bully."
"That's right," Pruitt said. "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's explosive remarks—which, Sierra Club notes, will likely upset Trump more than his "relentless attacks on clean air, clean water, and the health of the American public"—emerged just before he was set to appear at a hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where he faced questions from Democrats about his aggressive moves to gut environmental regulations.
But Democrats also seized upon the golden opportunity to highlight Pruitt's remarks, particularly because they were released just hours before Trump is set to deliver his first State of the Union Address.
Following Pruitt's opening statement, which didn't once mention the words "climate change," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) unveiled several posters displaying Pruitt's remarks and asked the EPA chief if he recalled making these comments about the man who now occupies the nation's highest office.
"There are a great many Americans who share the concerns that you expressed in that interview," Whitehouse said before rattling off Pruitt's comments.
In response, Pruitt insisted that he does not recall using those words, adding later that he would not "echo" those sentiments today.
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) January 30, 2018
Shortly after Tuesday's hearing came to a close, Pruitt released a fawning statement hailing Trump as "the most consequential leader of our time."
"No one has done more to advance the rule of law than President Trump," Pruitt said. (Polls have shown that a majority of Americans believe Trump has attempted to "impede or obstruct" special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.)
Reacting to Pruitt's newly-surfaced interview, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said "it's sad" that Trump will probably care more about "Pruitt's accurate portrayal of him" than about his assault on the environment.
"But Trump prizes his ego above anyone else, so Pruitt should watch his back," Brune noted. "Keep your eyes on Trump moving forward—will Pruitt wind up in the dog house like Jeff Sessions, or out of a job like Tom Price?"