EPA chief Scott Pruitt's long list of controversies

Trump praises Pruitt despite scandals
Trump praises Pruitt despite scandals


    Trump praises Pruitt despite scandals


Trump praises Pruitt despite scandals 02:23

(CNN)This story originally published on April 6, 2018, and has been updated with more developments.

A steady stream of negative headlines involving Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt in recent weeks and months has official Washington wondering whether the embattled agency chief can hold onto his job.
During his time at EPA, Pruitt has worked to carry out key elements of President Donald Trump's agenda, overseeing a rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations. But he has also been caught up in a series of unfolding controversies over everything from first-class travel, security expenses, and a decision to rent a room in Washington, DC, tied to an energy lobbyist.
When Pruitt took up his post at EPA, he was already a controversial figure. As Oklahoma attorney general, he sued the agency he now leads over environmental regulations and suggested that the debate over global warming is "far from settled."
    Here's a look at the lengthy list of controversies and allegations that Pruitt has become embroiled in during his time at the administration:
    • The $43,000 the EPA spent to purchase and install a soundproof booth in Pruitt's office violated federal spending law, according to the Government Accountability Office. The EPA was required to notify Congress before spending more than $5,000 on office improvements, GAO found, although EPA disputed that requirement applies to the privacy booth.
    • The EPA chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, signed on Pruitt's behalf the authorization of large raises to two close aides, internal documents show. Pruitt has maintained -- including in a Fox interview -- he was unaware of the raises and planned to reverse them, although the agency's Inspector General found no evidence the raises have been rescinded. The Atlantic has reported that Pruitt defied the White House to grant the raises.
    • The EPA Inspector General is probing Pruitt's travel practices. The review began following reports Pruitt would frequently travel home to Oklahoma on the taxpayers' dime. The IG twice expanded the probe, first as the agency acknowledged Pruitt used both a private plane and military jet to travel four times instead of flying commercial -- at a price of $60,000 -- and again to include all of Pruitt's travel from 2017.
    • Multiple senior EPA officials, including a career official and political appointees, were sidelined or demoted after they raised concerns or pushed back on the amount of money Pruitt has spent as EPA chief on expenses such as travel as well as his management of the agency, two sources confirmed to CNN.
    An EPA spokesman has disputed the claims, calling the employees in question "disgruntled."
    • Pruitt lived for about six months in a Capitol Hill condo owned by a health care lobbyist whose husband has lobbied the EPA and payed below the market rate, according to reports by ABC News and Bloomberg. A former deputy chief of staff told congressional investigators the energy lobbyist, J. Steven Hart, called Pruitt's chief of staff to complain that Pruitt was behind on rent, and a separate source told CNN the couple eventually evicted Pruitt by changing the condo lock code.
    CNN has reported that White House officials are exasperated by the housing controversy.
    • Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse sent a letter to the inspector general of the EPA that said Pruitt's constant security included even personal trips to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl.
    • The Environmental Integrity Project obtained heavily redacted documents from the EPA that showed the agency spent more than $30,000 on security for Pruitt's 2017 trip to Italy.
    • A report from The Washington Post in mid-March said documents the EPA provided to Congress outlined further travel expenses from Pruitt, totaling about $68,000 and including a nearly $20,000, four-day trip to Morocco and a series of first class flights.
    CNN reported in early March that Pruitt was one of four Cabinet-level officials the White House scolded in February over stories about questionable ethics at their agencies.
    • In February, questions over Pruitt's travel prompted House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican, to announce an inquiry into Pruitt's practices, and in response to the committee's request for documents, the EPA did not appear to turn over travel waivers granted to Pruitt for first-class travel.
    • Sen. John Barrasso, the Republican who leads the Senate committee overseeing EPA, has asked Pruitt to provide a list of the agency email accounts he uses after Senate Democrats said they believe Pruitt uses four email accounts and were unsure if the agency searches all four accounts when asked to produce public records.
    • Pruitt defended his first-class travel in February by saying it was for security purposes, citing the "toxic environment" in politics and implying he was less likely to face threats in a first-class crowd.
    • EPA documents reviewed by CNN in February showed attorneys for Pruitt's office justifying a series of charter flights last summer, including some $14,000 expended on travel around Oklahoma.
    • EPA is fighting a lawsuit from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility that alleges the Pruitt administration is deliberately avoiding creating written records of meetings and decisions (so that there are no documents subject to leaking or FOIA) and that Pruitt "uses phones other than his own to deal with important EPA-related matters so the calls do not show up in his call logs."