UPDATE: EPA administrator Pruitt testifies to Congress in the face of numerous ethics issues

UPDATE 2 — 4/27, 8:33 a.m. EDT: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt gave his opening statement in front of a House Committee on Energy and Commerce subcommittee Thursday morning saying he has “nothing to hide,” but later testimony revealed he was less than forthcoming, including in a recent Fox News interview

On Wednesday, April 4, Pruitt told the media outlet he had not approved raises for two staffers who hailed from his home state of Oklahoma despite an email from one of the members which reportedly said she had discussed it with him.

The EPA skirted the White House’s rejection of the substantial monetary increases by using a obscure provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act, a method Pruitt claimed ignorance of, but told Congress he had authorized the pay bumps by alerting his chief of staff.

 

UPDATE — 4:31 p.m. EDT: In an interview with NPR Wednesday, Deputy Press Sec. Hogan Gidley said Scott Pruitt’s ethics issues while at EPA have raised “serious concerns” which will have to be answered “in short order.”

Later, at a White House news conference, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the Trump administration is inquiring about Pruitt’s professional behavior and expects the “EPA administrator to answer” questions related to the matter.

 

Scott Pruitt, the embattled administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is scheduled to testify in front of House Energy and Commerce and Appropriations subcommittees on Thursday.

Pruitt is under fire for spending $43,000 to install a soundproof booth in his office. The Government Accountability Office has indicated that the purchase is a violation of a federal law, which requires the notification of both the House and Senate appropriations committees for expenditures exceeding $5,000.

In addition to the outlay for the booth, the former Oklahoma attorney general is also under fire for what some describe as “lavish spending,” as well as a controversial rental agreement for a condo owned by a Washington energy lobbyist.

“Again and again, Administrator Pruitt has abused his position for personal and political gain, including a sweetheart apartment rental from a lobbyist and a litany of wasteful taxpayer-funded indulgences in first-class flights, personal security, office and official vehicle upgrades, and massive raises for his political friends.”

“His subsequent denials and attempts to justify some of these ethics violations seem to have been complete fabrications,” Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), ranking member on the Environment subcommittee, told CNBC in an email.

In light of Pruitt’s arguably unethical practices, calls for his resignation have reached new heights, as 170 Washington lawmakers have signed a resolution calling for his ouster.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), took to Twitter to enjoin Pruitt to comply with their request, calling him “corrupt”:

Within hours, the hashtag #PruittMustGo was trending on social media.

Meanwhile, the White House continues to defend Pruitt for his tough approach to deregulation. In a press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary defended the now-infamous environmental deregulator:

“(Pruitt) has done a good job of implementing the president’s policies, particularly on deregulation, making the United States less energy dependent, and becoming more energy independent.”

“However, the other things certainly are something that we’re monitoring and looking at and I’ll keep you posted,” she added.

In Congress, however, GOP support for the EPA head seems to be eroding, with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) announcing plans to call him before her appropriations panel in May.

Murkowski was joined in her call for hearings by GOP Sens. Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and John Boozman (Ark.) — senior members of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

According to an article in Politico, the chair of the committee, John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) indicated that he has “serious questions” about Pruitt’s handling of taxpayer dollars.

The Trump appointee can expect to face tough questioning from both sides of the aisle as he heads to Capitol Hill. His future as head of the agency may rest in his answers.

 

[The Hill] [CNN] [Politico] [Photo courtesy AP via Tulsa World]

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