WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President Donald Trump defended his embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt against allegations of lavish spending on his security and travel in a tweet on Saturday (April 7).
"While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA," Trump said.
"Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!"
The latest missive came a day after the Wall Street Journal reported that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly last week told Trump that Pruitt should step down following a series of negative headlines.
Pruitt has been a loyal foot soldier in carrying forward Trump's deregulation efforts, and the president has valued his advocacy for his agenda.
Trump has taken an axe to the environmental regulations he inherited from his predecessor Barack Obama, cutting dozens of rules ranging from fracking on public land to greenhouse gas emissions and protections for endangered species.
The growing speculation about Pruitt's job security stems from stories highlighting his lavish travel costs at taxpayers' expense, his request for extra security, extraordinary pay raises for close aides, and a sweetheart deal he received for renting an apartment owned by the wife of a lobbyist who had business before the agency.
CNN also reported that Trump recently had floated replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions - who has earned Trump's ire for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation last year - with the scandal-ridden Pruitt.
Three Republican members of Congress have joined Democratic calls for Pruitt to step down or be fired.
Pruitt has sought to defend his actions, telling the Washington Examiner that the criticism about his rental deal and other issues was a result of Trump's enemies in "toxic" Washington who will "resort to anything" to stop their agenda.