EPA sources: Pruitt aide tried to back-date departure after congressional interview request

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Washington (CNN)One of embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's most trusted advisers sought to retroactively change her resignation date a day after the House oversight committee requested to interview her as part of its investigation.

Samantha Dravis, Pruitt's top policy adviser at the Environmental Protection Agency, is scheduled to depart the agency Friday. However, she called EPA officials on Tuesday morning to ask that her resignation date be backdated to the previous Thursday, April 12, two EPA officials, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter, told CNN.
On Friday, April 13, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested transcribed interviews with five EPA officials, but did not list Dravis because the committee believed Dravis was no longer employed by the agency. But after learning that Dravis was still an EPA employee, the committee sent a request to the agency on Monday afternoon, asking the agency to add Dravis to its list of interview requests, two EPA officials and a committee aide said.
    "Once the committee was informed Ms. Dravis still worked for the EPA, we requested the interview," the committee aide told CNN.
    It was not clear whether Dravis had been informed of the committee's interview request, but the next morning Dravis called EPA officials to ask that her resignation date be changed to April 12 -- the day before the committee's original request for transcribed interviews. An EPA official said staffers are typically informed of congressional interview requests.
    Dravis declined to comment on the matter to CNN.
    EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox declined to answer questions about whether Dravis had been informed of the House oversight committee's interview request or why Dravis sought to change her resignation date.
    "Samantha Dravis provided EPA a letter with April 20 as an effective date of her resignation. EPA is closing out administrative issues with her presently. This in no way affects Congressional requests for information," Wilcox said in a statement.
    Another EPA official said Dravis was unsuccessful in attempting to change her resignation date.
    The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating allegations of outsized spending, misuse of government funds and improper travel -- including matters that touch on Dravis' role at the EPA, like the first class return flight from a trip to Morocco she allegedly took on the government's dime.
    Dravis could still be compelled to testify before the committee, but the committee would need to serve a subpoena if she declined a voluntary interview.
    "If you're a government employee and Congress says, 'Thou shalt come here and do something,' then you've gotta go," said Cheri Cannon, a managing partner at Tully Rinckey who specializes in federal employment law. "If you're not a government employee, they're going to have to subpoena you."
    Nicholas Woodfield, a partner at the Employment Law Group, concurred, explaining that a hastier resignation could force the committee to issue a subpoena.
    "If she's a present employee the agency has to make her available. But if she's not a present employee, she can just say, 'I don't want to attend,' and they would have to subpoena her," Woodfield said.