Scott Pruitt Resigns from “Transformative Work”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned on July 5, 2018, keeping Team Trump in the lead for the number of White House staff departures. Though Pruitt is resigning amid numerous scandals in which he figures, some who know Pruitt hold him up as a “man of God.” Scott Pruitt, a Southern Baptist evangelical Christian, himself claims to believe that God put him in the position to serve Donald Trump. His resignation letter, full of references to “blessing” Trump, says as much. Below is a portion of the letter.

“My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the. American people. I believe you are serving as president today because of God’s providence. I believe the same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people.”

Scott Pruitt’s career has focused largely on faith-based issues. As a young attorney, he worked for the Rutherford Institute, a non-profit conservative organization. His first legal case was a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for alleged infringement on the religious freedoms of his client.

Citing the “transformative work” taking place under Trump’s leadership, and with himself as head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt went on to say, “However, the unrelenting attacks on me personally, my family, are unprecedented and have taken a sizable toll on all of us.”

It has been a theme of late, especially during the advent of the Trump administration, for evangelicals to say that they are misunderstood, discriminated against for their beliefs, and even persecuted. No doubt, in the days to come, there will be a faction of evangelicals who rush to Pruitt’s defense, citing “persecution.”

Sometimes, allegations of “attacks” on one’s beliefs, or of the denial of religious freedom, are warranted. And yet, when one is associated with as much corruption as is Scott Pruitt, can anyone really say that the pressure on him to resign, and the subsequent widespread relief at his doing so, is “religious persecution”?

Scott Pruitt is the subject of over a dozen ethics investigations, which will continue despite his stepping down. Below are just a few examples of recent allegations against Scott Pruitt:

  • Pruitt used taxpayer money for personal items, including using $3,230 to purchase personalized journals and pens at $130 each from a luxury jewelry store.
  • Pruitt accepted gifts and favors from, and hobnobbed with, people in industries he was supposed to regulate, including the coal industry, the National Mining Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
  • An EPA whistleblower reported that Scott Pruitt and some of his staff kept a secret calendar for meetings that were possibly controversial, such as those with industry officials. This violates federal laws against hiding or falsifying public records.

It would be interesting to know what goes on in the mind of anyone who considers himself to be a “servant of God,” yet knowingly commits not one or two, but an ongoing series of plainly unethical acts. What does Scott Pruitt tell himself, and how does he reconcile “godly servanthood” with his corruptness?

Key Trump ally Scott Pruitt forced to resign | Al Jazeera English [2018-07-06]

Scott Pruitt resigns from the White House amid negative allegations: report | Fox Business [2018-07-05]

Robert Mueller’s Interview with Jeff Sessions; Palestinians Boycott Pence

Robert Mueller’s Questions for Jeff Sessions

Last week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team interviewed U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as part of the Justice Department’s probe into Russian efforts to meddle with the 2016 election. Jeff Sessions, an early supporter of Trump, was involved throughout Trump’s campaign, and is a significant witness in this investigation.

Mueller’s team hopes to get answers from Jeff Sessions for the following questions:

  • Why did Sessions fail to disclose his meetings with Russian Senior Diplomat Sergey Kislyak and others? (In March of 2017, Sessions recused himself from the investigation after it was revealed that he had failed to disclose the fact that he had had meetings with Russian officials.)
  • What, exactly, went on during the 2016 Donald Trump Campaign? Was there collusion with a foreign adversary?
  • Why Did Donald Trump fire FBI Director James Comey? Jeff Sessions was involved in the decision to fire Comey, and wrote the memo recommending the firing. Did Trump, Sessions, or anyone else try to obstruct justice by firing Comey? (Trump had pressured Comey to end the Russia investigation, but Comey did not comply. Was Comey later fired because he refused to squelch the Russia investigation? Or was he fired because the Trump administration was unhappy with how he had handled Hillary’s use of a private server for her emails?

Jeff Sessions is the only known current Trump cabinet member to be interviewed by Mueller’s special counsel. Some speculate that the Sessions interview signals that the investigation is nearing an end. Others, however, say that Mueller’s questioning of Sessions is just the beginning.

AG Jeff Sessions Interviewed in Russia Probe | CBS News [2018-01-23]

Does Sessions Interview Signal Russia Probe is Wrapping Up? | Fox News [2018-01-23]

Palestinians Boycott Mike Pence

Palestinian leaders refused to meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Israel. They have boycotted Pence in protest of Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and to move the U.S. Embassy there.

Many Palestinians, aware of Pence’s brand of American evangelical Christianity, accuse Pence of using religion to shape diplomatic policy. For evangelical Christians, Israel, particularly Jerusalem, figures significantly in biblical “end times” doctrine.

Hanan Ashrawi, a PLO official, said, “He brought to bear his ideological fundamentalist literalist interpretation of the bible in order to punish the Palestinians and reward the aggressive Israeli occupier. This is entirely unacceptable. It is not only illegal, it is immoral, it is inhuman.”

Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Chief Negotiator, said “The Messianic discourse of Pence is a gift to extremists, and has proven that the U.S. administration is part of the problem, rather than the solution.”

Many American Evangelical Christians believe that all Christians support Israel’s position in the Israeli-Palestinian conversation. But in Israel, Christian leaders – not just Muslims – don’t welcome Pence, either.

Rev. Mitri Raheb, of Dar Al Kalima University College, calls Pence a Christion Zionist. “Americans are interested in Armageddon and wars. Instead of focusing on liberation, they’re interested in occupation.”

During his visit to Jerusalem, Mike Pence cited the fact that in the past, the U.S. helped Israel to make peace with Egypt and Jordan, two difficult elements of this conflict. Those treaties have lasted, and it was because both sides were willing to sit down and negotiate face to face.

Mike Pence’s presence, however, reminds Palestinians of Trump’s recent Jerusalem decision – one that had previously been considered a final step in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. That, paired with the recognition of Pence’s evangelical slant, has made the idea of beginning a bridge to negotiations with Israel unpalatable to Palestinians.

Palestinian Leaders Say Pence’s Faith is Shaping Policy | Fox News [2018-01-23]

Palestinians Boycott Mike Pence’s Visit to Israel | Al Jazeerah English [2018-01-22]

Vice President Pence in Israel | The White House [2018-01-24]