April 2, 2018

Stephanie Ruhle had the singular good fortune to oversee a death match between Hugh Hewitt and ethics expert Richard Painter over the corruption at the EPA at the hands of Scott Pruitt, who has spent part of his time in Washington, D.C. living in the home of an energy lobbyist.

It started out with the New York Magazine cover of Trump as a pig, calling out his corruption, and recalling Trump's speech during the campaign about how he's "grabbed all the money he could get" and would now do so for the country. HA!

After playing the clip of Chris Christie (!!!) holding forth on ethics issues in the Trump transition before moving to the obvious impropriety of an EPA admininstrator renting a room from an energy lobbyist at below-market rental rates, some words were exchanged.

"We've all known that this administration ignores ethics, ignores the law," Painter said. "I think we're finding Republican supporters of President Trump, one by one, starting to realize that this administration is corrupt and has been corrupt from day one."

Referring to the emoluments lawsuit filed against Trump, Painter explained that it "is about foreign government money that has been going to the president in violation of the United States Constitution."

"We have the incidents involving favors and money from lobbyists," he said. "We just today had the president of the United States making statements that were false, probably knowingly false, about Amazon, driving the stock price down. If an investor lost money in that stock, the investor could sue him for securities fraud. And those investors ought to be calling a lawyer."

I will interject that it would have been good and ethical for Painter to add that he has formed an exploratory committee to consider running for the Senate in Minnesota as a Republican. Viewers should know that his obviously righteous anger at corruption also benefits his bid for political office. And so I will say that now because what follows is pretty intense. I don't think I've seen either of these two as riled up as they were as this segment went on.

When Hewitt was asked why he doesn't see Pruitt's rental of a room in a lobbyist's condo at below-market rates as a problem, Hewitt first disclosed that he and Pruitt are pals, that his son works at EPA, and he's sure ethics aren't a problem here because the EPA ethics officer says it's not a problem.

This is apparently true even when said lobbyist's front door is broken down by Pruitt's security detail because they thought he was unconscious. Apparently he was just groggy for some reason in the middle of the afternoon and the EPA quite rightly paid to replace the door.

For Hewitt, this whole kerfuffle is because lefties are angry that President Obama's Clean Power Plan was repealed, the national monuments he's rolled back, and more. According to Hewitt, ethics aren't the problem; policy is.

When pressed by Ruhle as to whether there might be the tiniest ethics questions that really should be addressed, like self-dealing and more, Hewitt turned nasty.

"I think every single case against Scott Pruitt has been a nagging, political attack to slow down the agenda," Hewitt snarled.

Painter angrily replied that no one can get a room in Washington, D.C. for $50 per night, and that in itself is a violation of the gift rules. "It's just flat-out wrong and you know it," he tossed back and Hewitt.

Referring to the ethics officer at EPA, Hewitt scolded, "I don't know Mr. Menoli and I don't know you, but I wouldn't slander a professional who's been there for 18 years."

"I will," Painter shot back. "No professional would ever sign off on that."

As Hewitt laughed, Painter kept hammering on the $50 per night below-market rate Pruitt received. From a lobbyist.

More back and forth with Hewitt getting more and more prissy, sarcastic and rude.

"You can't stay at a lobbyist's house when you're the EPA chief and your work could directly impact theirs," Ruhle challenged..

Hewitt replied, "John Boehner stayed at a lobbyist's house for ten years as Speaker of the House." He then went on to opine that $50 a night for a room in Washington, D.C. is not a gift even when it comes from a lobbyist with interests that might be at odds with the EPA's mission.

"You don't think $50 a night is a gift?," Ruhle laughed. "You don't think $50 a night is a gift? How much do you think hotel rooms cost in Washington?"

Hewitt huffed, "I will tell you, it was reviewed by the career deputy senior associate general and the ethics official at this agency, for whom I have no knowledge but a great deal of respect."

"Mr. Painter doesn't," he baited. "He's entitled to pass judgment on whomoever he wants, but there's a reason he's in Minnesota and not Washington, D.C. That goes to whether you have regard for other professionals' work."

Painter lost all patience and bit Hewitt's bait, hard.

"Excuse me, I am tired of being attacked in my state. We elect people in Washington, D.C.," he fumed.. "We are sick and tired of K-street lobbyists."

"This is corruption. This is why the people of Minnesota and every other state, we are going to vote these people out,' he vowed. "It is disgusting what you just said about people in Minnesota!"

"We're going to shut it down. We're going to drain the swamp for sure. And this backfill they brought in from New York, we're going to send those people back to New York, New Jersey, wherever they came from that Trump brought on down," Painter said as Hewitt laughed at him.

"This is really wrong and you know it, " Painter said. Don't talk down to us."

I wish someone at MSNBC would wipe that smart-aleck grin off Hewitt's face. And also, let's not forget that this was Republican-on-Republican action that has some benefit to Richard Painter's bid for a Republican run at things.

Which could, in some ethics circles, be considered a gift from MSNBC to Richard Painter's fledgling campaign.

Oh, and Hugh Hewitt? Stick this in your grin and suck it:

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