To understand how stories of EPA director Scott Pruitt’s shady living situation and former White House staff secretary Rob Porter’s alleged domestic abuse eventually made their ways to the press, you first need to learn about the tabloid-dream of a love triangle between Porter, former Pruitt aide Samantha Dravis, and former White House communications director and all-around Trump soothsayer Hope Hicks. Aside from being a salacious story, the fallout between Porter and Dravis serves as a perfect microcosm for the absurd dysfunction at the heart of the Trump administration.
Dravis is the most recent person to exit the EPA, and like her boss, she is accused of pocketing taxpayer money under dubious circumstances. In this case, the former EPA senior counsel and associate director of its Office of Policy is accused of not showing up to work from November 2017 to January 2018 but still collecting a paycheck as a full-time employee. Dravis also allegedly took advantage of the same extravagant first class travel Pruitt paid for with public funds, specifically when she accompanied him on a trip to Morocco last year.
Pruitt’s excess use of funds has become a central administration scandal in recent weeks, with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill squabbling over the extent and meaning of whatever ethical violations he may have committed. According to EPA trade sheet, Inside EPA, the recent scrutiny of Pruitt and his agency did not appear in the air from the ether. Instead, they were triggered at least in part by leaks from Rob Porter.
Why would Porter, by all accounts a Trump loyalist, leak damaging info about Trump’s EPA chief to the press at a time when Trump desperately needs stability among his cabinet? Well, per the Daily Mail, Dravis was the one who called White House counsel Don McGahn to alert him of Porter’s alleged domestic abuse of two ex-wives. Dravis was reportedly in a live-in relationship with Porter when she saw texts messages between Porter and Hicks, as well as paparazzi photos of the two together.
Now, Pruitt’s EPA may be spinning the leaks from their own house in order to minimize the drama. That, at least, is the implication of a article in Politico from last week that stated a Pruitt aide was trying to get the press to report that the leaks were actually coming from a disgruntled former staffer. From Politico:
The administration source said the former staffer would have had access to key details about Pruitt’s travel and living arrangements. But that staffer rejected the accusations when contacted by POLITICO — and suggested that the agency is trying to shift attention to leaks while attacking former employees who have questioned some of Pruitt’s decisions.
The former employee and the administration source both requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations at the agency. POLITICO is declining to identify the former staffer because it could not verify the accusations.
If all of this is true, the fall out from the war between two scorned lovers (and Hope Hicks) has been immense. Hicks and Porter have both resigned. Scrutiny of Porter revealed that he had never obtained the requisite security clearance necessary to handle the flow of classified information to the president. Less than a month later, it was reported that more than 30 Trump aides had not obtained proper security clearances, including the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner. At the EPA, Pruitt is under the microscope for his use of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds. Dravis’s employment records are being reviewed by the EPA’s inspector general.
The Trump White House has seen its fair share of messes, and will see more. This one, all told, may go down as just a dramatic footnote attached to the most corrupt and amoral administration of our lifetimes. But it also perfectly explains that administration, a place populated by grifters ready to sell anyone else out just to save their own asses.