Two noteworthy departures at once just rocked the Trump White House

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Two officials at the Environmental Protection Agency who are both implicated in the multiple investigations of Scott Pruitt have suddenly resigned a week after the EPA Administrator blamed them and others at a Congressional hearing for all of the agency’s overspending, ethics violations, lobbyist ties, and mistakes.

Departing are Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, who has spearheaded Pruitt’s rapidly expanding security precautions, and Albert “Kell” Kelly, a longtime friend of Pruitt and a disgraced banker who ran the agency’s Superfund task force.

The staff of the House Oversight Committee still plans to interview Perrotta tomorrow, a committee aide told POLITICO.

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Pruitt has said Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent who has been at the EPA since 2004, had approved round-the-clock security for the Administrator,  his use of first-class flights for security reasons, a biometric door lock and the installation of a $43,000 phone booth so Pruitt could make secure calls, among other things.

Pruitt claimed before the Congressional committee that he never approved the $43,000 expenditure.

Perrotta is alleged to have used his clout to influence the awarding of a security contract by the EPA to a Maryland company where he is a partner.

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Perotta is likely to be grilled by investigators about his knowledge of how Pruitt came to rent a condo near Capitol Hill from a lobbyist at the below-market rate of $50 a night. Perotta has also been accused by former EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski of threatening to take away his parking pass after he raised questions about Pruitt’s excessive spending on travel and security.

One probe that could be derailed by Perotta’s resignation is the investigation being carried out by the EPA’s inspector general into security spending. Perrotta is no longer required to cooperate with the IG now that he won’t be an employee.

Kelly is a longtime friend of Pruitt’s who followed him from Oklahoma to Washington.

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In Oklahoma, Kelly headed the SpiritBank in Tulsa, which gave Pruitt several home mortgages and lent him money to invest in a minor league baseball team that he operated before being elected Attorney General of Oklahoma.

Kelly’s past in banking, however, has come back to haunt him. He was fined $125,000 and banned for life from the banking industry as part of a settlement last year with the FDIC over alleged loan irregularities, which came out earlier this year leading to controversy.

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Democrats in Congress have asked the EPA IG to review Pruitt’s hiring of Kelly as well as his work with the Superfund Task Force.

“The exodus of Pruitt’s closest aides shows just how toxic his reign at EPA has become,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) said in a statement. “Albert Kelly was never qualified to run Superfund, his banking ban was a huge red flag, and his resignation is a positive development.”

The House Oversight committee has said it plans to continue to investigate Pruitt, will interview more witnesses and that it is going through hundreds of pages of documents.

Rep. Beyer spoke for many when he said with all the ethical problems surrounding the EPA under this regime, “Pruitt should be the next to go.”

The reality is that if we had an ethical president who cared about the quality of the people who work under him, and not just if they are loyal, Pruitt would already be gone.

When Pruitt first arrived at the EPA there was an exodus of a lot of longtime, experienced, highly regarded employees, but this time it is different. This is the departure of two employees, one a veteran and one an import, who showed that they were willing to do anything to curry Pruitt’s favor, only to have the small-minded, incompetent Administrator turn on them to protect himself.

While both men say they are leaving voluntarily, this clearly seems to be a case of the bad actors jumping ship to try and save the king rat from being forced out, at least for now.

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Benjamin Locke

Benjamin Locke is a retired college professor with an undergraduate degree in Industrial Labor and Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from the European School of Management.

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