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GOP Sen. Rounds: Pruitt criticism amounts to ‘nitpick’ of ‘little things’

GOP Sen. Rounds: Pruitt criticism amounts to ‘nitpick’ of ‘little things’
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) appears on Meet the Press alongside Chuck Todd, to discuss Syria, the White House's trade threats, and Scott Pruitt's standing with the president, on April 8, 2018. NBC News

WASHINGTON — Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., on Sunday defended embattled Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, saying much of the scrutiny seems to be nitpicking.

“I don’t know how much of it is overblown and how much of it is accurate, to be honest,” Rounds said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I’m not going to call it fake news. I’ll say in some cases we’ll overblow something, but in this particular case Mr. Pruitt has been doing a good job as the secretary of the EPA. He is moving forward exactly as this president said he would.”

A flurry of recent stories have raised questions about some of Pruitt’s spending at the EPA and elsewhere, including pay raises to top aides without approval, a $50-a-night condo lease tied to a lobbyist, repeated first-class and chartered air travel, and a report that the EPA spent millions on a 20-member full-time security detail three times the size of his predecessor’s, and more.

The South Dakota senator attributed recent reporting on Pruitt’s actions to nitpicking.

“Oh, he has too big of a security detail? Is that suddenly the reason why you fire someone?” the senator asked.

“We’ll nitpick little things,” he added. Pruitt, according to Rounds, is being a steward of taxpayer money by cutting environmental regulations and promoting business, calling him a “big part” of the president’s agenda.

Rounds said he believes the “reason why all of the emphasis is on Mr. Pruitt right now is because he’s executing these policies” on environmental regulation promised by the Trump administration.

Trump also defended Pruitt in a tweet on Saturday, saying the secretary has “received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!”

Rounds’ defense of Pruitt sat in contrast to his Republican colleague Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who told CNN she thinks that “Scott Pruitt is the wrong person to lead the EPA.” Collins was the sole Republican senator to vote against Pruitt’s nomination last year.

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