The Briefing: EPA's Scott Pruitt, swamp creature

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The Briefing: EPA's Scott Pruitt, swamp creature

Embattled Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt was bombarded with questions from concerned lawmakers Thursday as he made a pair of appearances on Capitol Hill.

A maelstrom of scandals throughout the first year of Pruitt's tenure surfaced questions regarding his first-class flights, a sweetheart condo deal from the wife of an energy lobbyist, unauthorized pay raises for close associates, his penchant for secrecy and love of perks, and the demotion of EPA employees who questioned his spending.

Administrator Scott Pruitt lashed out at media outlets' reporting negative stories about him, in which facts "have been so twisted that they do not resemble reality", during his opening remarks at a congressional hearing Thursday.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt says he was unaware his security chief moonlighted as an investigator for a tabloid news company with close ties to President Donald Trump. "Those who have attacked the EPA are doing so because they want to attack and derail ... the administration's priorities. I did not approve the process", Pruitt told Fox, adding that he had reversed the decisions and that the raises "should not have happened".

Republicans were less interested in getting answers from Pruitt on what subcommittee chair Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) called his "stewardship" of the agency, and spent more time focusing on the "policy" they agreed with. Under federal law, the EPA is required to notify Senate and House appropriations committees in advance of any furnishing that costs taxpayers more than $5,000.

As the Oklahoma attorney general fighting the EPA, Pruitt's confirmation 14 months ago was contentious and he was barely confirmed, winning the support of just 52 senators.

Pruitt noted that the EPA was investigating the spending internally.

"There's no excuse, I don't care what party you're in or who you are, you can't abuse taxpayer money", Kennedy said, "I'm not saying people don't make mistakes, they do".

"I do not think it is appropriate", Lance said. 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.

When asked, Pruitt said he knew about the raises, but not the amounts.

"There were delegations giving him that authority", Pruitt said, though he did not say whether he had granted Jackson that authority himself.

"Let me be very clear: I have nothing to hide as its relates to how I've run the agency for the past 16 months", Pruitt told members of the House Commerce Committee. In addition, Mr. Pruitt appears to have used unorthodox measures, and bypassed White House approval, to give substantial raises to favored political appointees. The chemical has been linked to several deaths, but the EPA has delayed action on a proposed ban.

In an April 9 statement, Jackson said Pruitt was not aware of the amount the staffers' salaries were being raised by, nor was he aware of the process through which they were implemented.

When running late for a dinner in Washington, D.C., one evening, Pruitt asked if sirens could be turned on in order to get out of the traffic sooner, CBS News reported. When Luján pressed him futher, Pruitt replied, "That's not a yes or no answer, congressman". Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed concern over the installation of a secure phone booth in his office. He was particularly interested in the suspicious pay raises to two of his friends that were signed off by his chief of staff.

Some Democrats want Pruitt to be grilled on policy, too. Senior legal counsel Sarah Greenwalt received a raise of more than $66,000, bringing her salary to $164,200, and scheduling director Millian Hupp saw her salary jump from $48,000 to $114,590.

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