Two Democratic Congressmen Thursday called on the EPA’s Inspector General to investigate whether Administrator Scott Pruitt committed a federal crime by allegedly hiding or falsifying records of meetings and discussions with industry representatives.
The calls for the IG to examine Pruitt come two days after an exclusive CNN investigation featuring a former top aide who alleged that the administrator and his staffers held routine meetings to “scrub,” alter or remove controversial events from his calendar.
In a letter sent to the EPA’s Inspector General Thursday, Democratic Reps. Don Beyer of Virginia and Ted Lieu of California referenced the CNN report, which also aired on “Anderson Cooper 360.”
“Willful concealment or destruction of such records is a federal crime carrying penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment,” they wrote in the letter.
An EPA spokesperson told CNN Thursday, “Despite continued false accusations there are no secret calendars or schedules. EPA has released the meetings and events Administrator Pruitt has attended – which the media has already reported as meetings with industry – and to report anything else would be categorically false.”
Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff for operations, told CNN Pruitt’s aides would print sections of the private calendar containing details of events, gather around a table, sometimes in Pruitt’s office, and decide what would be omitted or altered on the public calendar. He said this often occurred under Pruitt’s direction.
CNN found more than two dozen meetings, events or calls detailed in internal EPA documents and emails were omitted from his public calendar. Some of those omitted meetings included a dinner Pruitt attended at a restaurant within Trump International Hotel with coal executive Joseph Craft as well as meetings with Cardinal George Pell, who weeks later was charged with multiple historical charges of sexual offenses, charges Pell denies.
Lieu and Beyer wrote that the alleged practice of hiding or falsifying documents related to scheduling could violate the Federal Records Act.
“Congress established and updated these laws because the American people deserve to know how their government is operated, and who is exerting influence over determinations which affect them,” their letter stated.
CNN interviewed several experts for the investigation who said that, if the allegations by the top EPA whistleblower are true, the practice of keeping secret calendars and altering or deleting records of meetings could violate federal law as either “falsifying records” or hiding public records.
“If somebody changed, deleted, scrubbed a federal record with the intent of deceiving the public or intent of deceiving anybody, it could very well be a violation of federal law,” said Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission.
A senior administration official said Pruitt is “inching forward to the tipping point,” but ultimately Pruitt’s standing at the EPA depends on President Donald Trump.
Pruitt attended a July 4 picnic at the White House. Trump mentioned him as he listed off other officials in attendance, but didn’t make any other mention of him.