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EPA chief Pruitt faces congressional grilling on spending, ethics

27 April 2018

"Much of what has been targeted at me and my team has been half truths or, at best, stories that have been so twisted that they do not resemble reality", Pruitt testified.

"Those who have attacked the EPA and attacked me are doing so because they want to derail the president's agenda ..."

Lawmakers assailed Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt on Thursday for the ethics and spending scandals that have prompted bipartisan calls for his ouster.

It's nearly a certainty that Pruitt will be asked about matters like his $43,000 personal phone booth, his travel expenses, and his reported dealings with lobbyists.

Documents later showed EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson signed off on the raises and indicated he had Pruitt's consent.

Lawmakers scheduled Thursday's hearing to discuss President Donald Trump's fiscal 2019 budget proposal for the EPA, but lawmakers' questions about the Pruitt investigations largely dominated the conversation.

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"I want to give him every chance", Inhofe said Wednesday when asked by ABC News about Pruitt. Judging how Administrator Pruitt has deprioritized human health as the head of the EPA, I have little confidence in how he'll oversee the remediation of our communities or how he'll protect the Montana children from industrial pollution.

While Congress grilled him hard, Pruitt came prepared. "For that reason, for me as an environmentalist, I don't think the regulatory environment is going to suddenly improve with Scott Pruitt gone", he added.

Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and John Thune, R-S.D., said Pruitt faces "serious questions" about his use of taxpayer money.

"I don't mean to be too harsh, but you can't just go around acting like a big shot, and you can't go around seeing how close you can come to the line, and you can't go around disrespecting taxpayer dollars", Kennedy said Tuesday. "The PPO process should have been respected.I did not know they got the pay raises until yesterday".

Even if Pruitt hadn't had any other problems during his time overseeing the EPA - and he's had LOTS of them - this would amount to a fireable offense in most offices, much less in the White House. During the morning hearing before the House environment subcommittee, Lance said installation of the phone booth was unnecessary, given that the EPA headquarters building has two other sensitive compartmented information facilities, or SCIFs. In addition to questions of spending and ethics, Mr. Pallone is expected to push Mr. Pruitt on his many moves to roll back the Obama administration's climate change policies.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office - Congress' watchdog agency - concluded the EPA broke the spending laws when it failed to tell lawmakers that it was allocating more than $43,000 to install the soundproof phone booth in Pruitt's office a year ago.

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Pruitt, for his part, believes the White House is leaking damaging details about him and is "out to get him", in the words of a Pruitt ally.

Pruitt offered up a copy of a "threat assessment" from the OIG.

A member unknown compared to Exxon Mobile's Rex Tillerson or General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, he was a politico from Oklahoma who served as the state's attorney general.

Pruitt and the Trump administration are creating a toxic legacy by ignoring established science and attacking our cornerstone environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and the Clean Car Standards.

In one incredible exchange, Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) accused Democrats of engaging in "McCarthyism" with their attacks on Pruitt's spending.

Representative David McKinley of West Virginia called the criticism of Pruitt a "classic display of innuendo and McCarthyism", a reference to a 1950s-era campaign to root out communists. Former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler was recently confirmed as Pruitt's deputy, and some Republicans say privately that Wheeler, a former EPA and Inhofe staffer, could continue the agency's deregulatory agenda without the drama that surrounds Pruitt.

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EPA chief Pruitt faces congressional grilling on spending, ethics