Washington Post: EPA aide assisted in Pruitt housing search

Washington (CNN)Millan Hupp, an aide to embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, assisted last year in a search for housing options for Pruitt and his wife, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing multiple sources with knowledge of the matter.

According to the Post, Hupp's involvement in the search included reaching out to a local real estate firm at a time when Pruitt was vacating a condo owned by the wife of a lobbyist for energy and transportation issues.
Three people, including current and former EPA employees, told the newspaper that Hupp was "the point person for Pruitt's search." Hupp, who works as his director of scheduling and advance, "went to view properties for rent or sale" on some nights and weekends, the Post reported, citing two of the sources. Hupp generally used private email in her correspondence with the real estate company but sometimes reached out to the company during work hours, the paper said.
Pruitt is under intense scrutiny in the wake of reports that he rented a room in a condo for around $50 a night from Vicki and Steven Hart, lobbyists whose firm has lobbied the EPA. The scrutiny has raised questions over whether Pruitt will keep his job. CNN has reported, however, that President Donald Trump called Pruitt on Monday evening to tell him to "keep fighting."
    In a statement to the Post, an EPA spokesperson defended the administrator and the agency.
    "This is not news," agency spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the newspaper. "The notion that government resources were used to assist in finding housing is categorically false. Administrator Pruitt and his wife looked at numerous housing options."
    Former general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics Don Fox told the Post, however, that federal officials are prohibited from utilizing subordinates to carry out personal tasks on their behalf.
    The Post noted in its report that Hupp "was one of two EPA employees who recently received significant raises, despite a lack of White House approval. Her salary jumped nearly 33 percent last month, from $86,460 to $114,590."
    In a statement to CNN, EPA spokesman Wilcox said: "The Safe Drinking Water Act provides the EPA with broad authority to appoint scientific, engineering, professional, legal, and administrative positions within EPA without regard to the civil service laws. This is clear authority that has been relied on by previous administrations. The administrator was not aware that these personnel actions had not been submitted to the Presidential Personnel Office. So, the administrator has directed that they be submitted to the Presidential Personnel Office for review."