House panel seeks interviews with top advisers to EPA chief

Monday, 16 Apr, 2018

The former Oklahoma Attorney General has been slammed for allegedly giving aides raises after the White House told him not to, for renting a bedroom in a Capitol Hill apartment owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist, and for spending more than $100,000 on luxury air travel.

Pruitt's security team now consists of 19 agents and includes a fleet of at least 19 vehicles, a source with direct knowledge of Pruitt's security detail said. The letter also cites reporting last week in the Times that agency staff members who raised concerns about these and other actions found themselves transferred or demoted.

Gowdy's letter was sent one day after lawmakers heard details from the EPA's former deputy chief of staff for operations, Kevin Chmielewski, who said those who questioned Pruitt's unethical behavior were retaliated against.

However, as the Government Accountability Office noted in their report, Pruitt did not seek permission for his lavish phone booth spending and "by failing to provide such advance notice, EPA violated section 710" of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act which requires spending above $5,000 to be preapproved by Congress.

Most recently, he's been accused of staying in expensive hotels while traveling that exceeded the government-allowable maximums and flying with Delta instead of the government's contract carrier so he could get frequent flyer miles.

"EPA must give a full public accounting of this expenditure and explain why the agency thinks it was complying with the law", Barrasso said.

GAO disagreed, saying even by that logic, EPA should have notified Congress. EPA officials said Congress was intending to restrict only an "aesthetic improvement" to appointees' offices, but GAO said they were selectively reading the statute.

We'd like to see that matter investigated, too, as during the presidential campaign Mr. Trump routinely criticized alleged misuse of email by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The EPA could, however, face administrative penalties under the Antideficiency Act.