WASHINGTON — Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt sought to distance himself Tuesday from his 2016 statements that presidential candidate Donald Trump is a bully who, if elected, would abuse the Constitution.

Pruitt made the comments in February 2016 while appearing on a conservative talk radio program in Oklahoma, where he served as the state’s Republican attorney general. At the time, Pruitt supported Jeb Bush.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse sought to use Pruitt’s own words against him during an oversight hearing and had an aide hold the quotes up on large signs. The Rhode Island Democrat’s office also released audio of Pruitt’s 2016 comments to talk radio host Pat Campbell. Pruitt said he appeared on Campbell’s show several times, but could not recall making those specific comments about Trump, who appointed him a year later to lead EPA. Pruitt added that he now would not agree with his past comments.