In Senate Hot Seat, Scott Pruitt Dodges Questions Over Mounting Scandals

16 May, 2018, 21:40 | Author: Wade Massey
  • The Washington Post  The Washington Post

President Trump's EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt faced sharp lines of inquiry from Democratic senators at a routine budget hearing Wednesday morning, including questions about his use of a 24/7 security team since the day he took over the agency.

Most of the committee's six Democratic members have publicly called for Pruitt's resignation. Patrick Leahy of Vermont called his regulatory rollbacks and ethical controversies "unconscionable", and Tom Udall of New Mexico said his tenure at the EPA was "a betrayal of the American people".

Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, defended the agency's handling of the issue to Politico, saying the "EPA is eager to participate in and, contribute to a coordinated approach so each federal stakeholder is fully informed on what the other stakeholders' concerns, roles, and expertise can contribute and to ensure that the federal government is responding in a uniform way to our local, state, and Congressional constituents and partners".

The House oversight committee, the EPA's inspector general and the Government Accountability Office all are investigating various allegations against Pruitt or his administration at EPA. Pruitt says, "I don't recall that happening".

"The agency should not have done that", Pruitt said, though he declined to apologize for the tweet when Udall asked him to do so.

"I am concerned that numerous important policy efforts that you are engaged in are being overshadowed because of a series of issues related to you and your management of the agency", she said.

A letter from the agency's inspector general also contradicted Pruitt and the EPA's claim that the need for a 24/7 security detail was a response to an assessment of death threats against him. She signaled she'll have questions for Pruitt on both policy and ethics.

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The senator has asked again whether Pruitt gave such an order.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the committee's chairwoman, said that instead of being asked about Pruitt's efforts to return EPA to its core mission, she's constantly fielding questions about issues like his management and travel.

In a hearing on the environment before the Senate appropriations committee, Pruitt acknowledged the numerous scandals plaguing his tenure over the agency but repeatedly deflected blame to his staff or simply said he did not recall the details surrounding them.

"Then that's a gift, that's a violation of federal law", Udall said, noting that subordinates of federal officials are prohibited from providing free services to their bosses. In the tweet, the agency appeared to mock Democrats after the long-awaited confirmation of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as Pruitt's top deputy.

When a Trump administration aide said the report would cause a "public relations nightmare", aides to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and the White House sought to block the study from being made public, according to EPA emails released to the Union of Concerned Scientists under the Freedom of Information Act.

"Unlike Scott Pruitt's Pollution Protection Agency, there is still one government agency clearly trying to safeguard the public from these risky chemicals", said EWG President Ken Cook.

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