Trump reassures embattled EPA leader Pruitt in Monday night call

WASHINGTON, April 3 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump called embattled U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday night with a reassuring message, an administration official said on Tuesday. "Scott, keep your head up. Keep fighting. We've got your back," Trump told Pruitt, according to the official.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly phoned Pruitt on Tuesday morning to reinforce the message, the official said.

A White House official, asked for comment, would only say that the two phone calls had taken place and gave no details.

Lawmakers on Sunday predicted in TV interviews that Pruitt might not survive long in his job after reports that he paid a below-market rate to live in a condo owned by a lobbyist who deals with issues overseen by the EPA.

Pruitt has already faced public criticism for his frequent use of first-class flights, which is under investigation by the EPA inspector general, and for installing a $43,000 secure phone booth to conduct confidential calls.

Trump has been retooling his Cabinet, ousting David Shulkin last week as secretary of the Veterans Administration and Rex Tillerson last month as secretary of state. (Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

RELATED: A look at Scott Pruitt

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Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt
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Former Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaks to employees of the Agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito as his wife Marilyn holds a bible during ceremony at the Executive Office in Washington, U.S., February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meets with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) (L) in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy John R.H. Collison (L) meets with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to discuss state water issues at the attorney generals office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014.

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in a meeting at his office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014. 

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

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