EPA chief faces Capitol Hill grilling over ethical missteps

Trump's EPA chief may face tough questions on Capitol Hill

The EPA administrator said "twisted" allegations against him were meant to undermine the administration's anti-regulatory agenda, and he denied knowing details of some of the extraordinary spending done on his behalf at the agency.

The Environmental Protection Agency chief is in the hot seat today, facing lawmakers while investigators and ethics watchdogs and continue to scrutinize his lavish expenditures.

In recent weeks, Pruitt has faced increasing scrutiny for: a housing deal tied to an energy lobbyist; spending millions on first-class travel and security measures; and reportedly retaliating against staffers who spoke out against his spending.

In a statement, EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson said the agency does not "comment on personnel matters within EPA's protective service detail".

Pruitt is slated to appear before a House Appropriations subcommittee Thursday afternoon and the administrator will be asked not only about EPA budgetary issues, but about the multiple controversies involving him as well. Despite the fact that Trump's first budget ordered the EPA's budget slashed by 24 percent and staffing levels cut by 20 percent, Pruitt's twenty person team is three times as large as previous administrators, according to a separate Times article.

Pruitt says the consulting work by EPA special agent Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta is under review.

Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, has been criticized by Democrats, and some Republicans, over the complaints.

"I was not aware of the amount, nor was I aware of the bypassing or the [White House Office of Presidential Personnel] process not being respected", Pruitt said.

Under questioning, Pruitt acknowledged that Hupp, the scheduling director whose pay soared, helped him find accommodations in the capital but said her search apparently did not cost taxpayers. I'd guess that Trump's leaning hard on letting Pruitt take a beating for a while to see if the news media and Democrats get exhausted out.

Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said Pruitt's behavior has begun to hurt Trump's credibility, as well as the Republican Party generally. "I'm simply not going to let that happen", Pruitt said.

Rep. David McKinley said Democratic lawmakers were "ignoring the progress that's been made" at the EPA instead were "grandstanding" at Thursday's hearing, calling it a "classic display of innuendo and McCarthyism" when pressing Pruitt about his ethics.

"I'm not doing this to hassle you".

But it's worth noting that, if the two had a chance to rule on increasingly beleaguered EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's future, they wouldn't have his back.

Pruitt installed a $43,000 soundproof telephone booth in his office, thereby violating a law barring presidential appointees from spending more than $5,000 on office improvements without notifying Congress. 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.

And past year, Pruitt drew fire after he ordered a private plane from Denver to Durango and turned down an offer to ride on Gov. John Hickenlooper's state plane on a trip to the Gold King Mine that also included Bennet and several other members of Congress from Colorado.

While Trump has previously backed Pruitt, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared noncommittal on Wednesday. "I think that's a failure in leadership".

- Use of private and military aircraft for EPA trips. We should also expect that an individual tasked to lead EPA will prioritize the well-being of families and the environment over the wishes of close friends and industry.

The public grilling comes amid erosion in support for Pruitt among fellow Republicans after a monthlong swarm of negative headlines about outsized security spending, first-class flights and a sweetheart condo lease.

Pruitt said Thursday he delegated authority to Jackson to give the raises but didn't know the exact amounts.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said Pruitt was a "victim of Washington politics".

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