EPA inspector general opens investigation of Pruitt's use of multiple email accounts

Sergio Conner
May 18, 2018

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) offered a harsh dose of reality to embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

Pruitt is now under investigation for travel costs, pay raises for aides, and retaliation against whistle blowers among other allegations. The agency has followed the policy to the best of my knowledge.

In another exchange about whether he had asked for sirens and flashing lights to be used to expedite a trip to his "favorite" Washington restaurant, the upscale French eatery Le Diplomate, Pruitt answered, "There are policies in place regarding the use of lights".

The back-and-forth prompted Udall to announce that he was submitting for the record an email written by EPA aide Pasquale Perrotta that had the subject line "Lights and Sirens".

New Mexico's Tom Udall is asking Pruitt whether he directed his security detail to use lights and sirens to speed through Washington traffic, even when there wasn't an emergency. Perrotta wrote to a number of EPA officials whose names were blacked out.

Perrotta is one of five current and former EPA employees who have been called to testify behind closed doors to staff for the Republican-led House oversight committee.

Pruitt was pummeled by the Democrats on some of his other mini-scandals as well. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), said that while she recognized that Pruitt had made tangible progress on some issues championed by the GOP, she was also concerned those accomplishments "are being overshadowed because of a series of issues related to you and your management of the agency".

"He said 'nobody even knows who you are, '" Leahy recalled the constituent as saying. Pruitt demanded and received unprecedented around-the-clock armed security protection on his very first day at the agency.

EPA inspector general opens investigation of Pruitt's use of multiple email accounts

The EPA chief has also taken heat for a sweetheart rental apartment deal, but at Wednesday's hearing that took a backseat to his use of a government aide for his real estate hunt.

Joanne Spalding, chief climate counsel at the Sierra Club, adds, "We've warned [EPA administrator] Scott Pruitt that any attack on our clean air or water would be met by resistance in the streets and in the courtroom".

Additionally, a US senator blasted Pruitt for flying first-class because of security reasons, saying no one 'knows who you are'.

"Only Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration would consider reducing drinking water contamination for the American people to be a 'nightmare, '" remarked Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group. "That's in violation of federal law".

The Associated Press reported last month that Pruitt's preoccupation with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers, as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes.

"I think as attorney general, it's important for law enforcement, those investigators that serve prosecutors to be able to provide adequate information to them to make informed decisions about how they will proceed as prosecutor". Asked Friday if he still had confidence in Pruitt, Trump told reporters, "I do".

Van Hollen also asked Pruitt if he would disclose donations to the fund so the public can see who's financing his defense.

"It's been set up", he said when a Democratic senator asked about its existence.

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