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August 10 2019
Former E.P.A. administrator Scott Pruitt testifying at a Senate budget hearing in 2018, back when he faced multiple federal ethics investigations for lavish misspending.

It could be said that Trump’s unlikeliest promise was that he’d surround himself “only with the best and most serious people.” It could also be said that the revolving door of these “top of the line professionals” has been the most consistent aspect of his presidency. But with the astonishing speed at which he burns through them—his staff turnover rate is higher than that of each of the five most recent presidents, according to a report from the Brookings Institution—there’s been scant opportunity to remember the fallen. So many scoundrels, so little time.

So, each week we’ll be checking in on one of those junketeers to see how comfortably he or she has settled back into the swamp. First up: Scott Pruitt. You remember Pruitt. The former E.P.A. chief resigned one year ago after racking up an almighty tab that included more than $900,000 on travel, $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth for his office, $1,560 on 12 fountain pens, courtside basketball tickets—a gift from a billionaire coal magnate—and so much more. (Pruitt denied wrongdoing and as far as we can tell, he never did manage to nab that used Trump Hotel mattress or a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife.)

“He’ll go on to great things,” Trump said at the time of Pruitt’s resignation. “He’s going to have a wonderful life.”

Fact check: False. Pruitt was recently spotted puttering on a treadmill in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he is said to reside when not in Washington to meet with the kinds of people he was meant to regulate. (He’s been known to hold court at a Mediterranean-casual bistro on Capitol Hill called Radici.) The Washington Post reported that, since his exit, Pruitt has met with groups including the National Association of Manufacturers and the Edison Electric Institute.

“He’ll go on to great things,” Trump said at the time of Pruitt’s resignation. “He’s going to have a wonderful life.”

And it didn’t take long for him to crawl back into the arms of Kentucky coal baron Joseph W. Craft III, transitioning seamlessly into a consulting gig for the Trump mega-donor, someone whom Pruitt met with at least seven times during his stint at the E.P.A. (Also: the benefactor who provided Pruitt with those great courtside seats.) More recently, The Indianapolis Star reported that Pruitt registered with state regulators in Indiana as a lobbyist for a murky L.L.C. connected to Sunrise Coal. “It’s unclear what, exactly, Pruitt is working on or who he is meeting with at the Statehouse,” the Star wrote, “but he has ties to the Indiana coal industry.”

Though Pruitt has returned to private life⁠—just another faceless swamp alumnus among many⁠—his Grand Guignol–level schnorring has not been so easily forgotten. In May, federal investigators completed an audit outlining Pruitt’s “excessive” spending in office. When the E.P.A. said in response that it would not attempt to recoup any travel costs, Senators Tom Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse balked, saying in a joint statement, “Resigning in disgrace shouldn’t let you off the hook for unprecedented unethical behavior.”

But, senators, this is Donald Trump’s Washington. There’s plenty of precedent for Pruitt’s behavior.

Shawn McCreesh is a reporter based in Washington, D.C.