Scott Pruitt is under investigation. Again.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inspector general announced it is investigating Pruitt, who is the EPA administrator, and his use of nonpublic email accounts. This is the twelfth investigation into the administrator’s behavior while heading the agency.
Records show four accounts were created for Pruitt. Pruitt’s spokesman claimed that one account is used for administrative tasks and that another was used only briefly.
The news comes as Pruitt is expected to face questions about his spending habits and other unethical behavior at a Capitol Hill hearing today on the agency’s budget.
.@SenatorTomUdall to Scott Pruitt just now: "your tenure at the EPA is a betrayal of the American people."
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) May 16, 2018
Two political leaders took to social media to blast Pruitt’s latest controversy.
“I’ll say it again: Scott Pruitt must resign, and he must resign now before he uses your taxpayer money for his next luxurious vacation,” wrote Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader for the House of Representatives.
I'll say it again: Scott Pruitt must resign, and he must resign now before he uses your taxpayer money for his next luxurious vacation.
— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) May 14, 2018
“In any other reality, Scott Pruitt would resign in shame,” wrote Senator Tina Smith (D-MN).
In any other reality, Scott Pruitt would resign in shame. Not with this administration. And frankly, not with the GOP in charge of the Senate. We need the Senate majority to bring back real accountability. https://t.co/vb0ASGv71V
— Tina Smith (@TinaSmithMN) May 15, 2018
During his last congressional testimony, which took place three weeks ago, Pruitt was asked about “his unprecedented security detail, travel practices and massive raises given to aides,” according to CNN.
During his testimony, Pruitt:
- told legislators that the $43,000 soundproof booth installed in his office is not rated for classified materials, which is the explanation he previously used to justify the purchase;
- insisted that two close aides received enormous raises via his chief of staff, to whom he granted the authority to give out the raises; this explanation contradicted his previous claim that he had no prior knowledge of the raises;
- was rebuked by a whistleblower who said Pruitt lied when he claimed not to have retaliated against aides who questioned his decisions;
- was reprimanded by the inspector general, who said Pruitt “misrepresented to Congress a memo he provided them about security concerns.”
Pruitt has also had to defend his use of a Capitol Hill condo that he rented for $50 a night. Pruitt’s use of the space is the target of ethical concerns because the condo is owned by J. Steven and Vicki Hart. Mr. Hart is a lobbyist in the healthcare arena.
Since Pruitt’s testimony:
- the inspector general found that his protection team is several times larger than the one used by his predecessors, costing taxpayers at least $2 million in salaries last year alone;
- CNN uncovered an “executive protection” playbook posted by the security company owned by Pruitt’s former security chief.
- three of his top aides, including Liz Bowman, whom Pruitt tasked to lead environmental cleanup projects, have left the agency;
- a review of internal emails found that EPA officials “shielded Pruitt from facing questions from the public and reporters”;
- reports revealed that industry lobbyists helped plan two overseas trips for Pruitt, including a visit to Morroco and another to Australia, which was canceled due to hurricanes;
- a report revealed that conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt personally arranged a meeting between Pruitt and California water officials and that not long afterward, Pruitt announced a groundwater cleanup project in the area.