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    On the Hill with Doug Christian, July 6, 2018

    • Immigration
    • Pruitt’s exit
    • SCOTUS appointee

    WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt resigned as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Thursday, a move that comes after he had weathered months of mounting scrutiny over his behavior in the position.

    President Donald Trump tweeted that he had accepted Pruitt’s resignation, but did not acknowledge the string of scandals the administrator was facing.

    Instead, Trump said Pruitt had done an “outstanding job.”

    Trump said Andrew Wheeler, the EPA’s deputy administrator, will fill Pruitt’s position next Monday.

    Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, initially came under fire for using taxpayer money for personal travel, opulent office furnishings and for expanding the size and scope of his security detail beyond that of his predecessors.

    The scrutiny intensified after it was revealed in April that he rented a condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist for only $50 a night.

    Pruitt said there was nothing improper about the arrangement, but the reports fueled speculation that the administrator could be on his way out.

    Instead, Trump repeatedly came to Pruitt’s defense, even after additional concerns over his tenure came to light.

    All in all, Pruitt is the subject of more than a dozen investigations, most recently one into reports that he used alternate calendars and schedules to hide meetings he had with energy industry representatives and others.

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) heralded the resignation in a terse, one-word statement.

    “Good,” the watchdog group said.

    Update: 3:40 p.m. – President Donald Trump tweeted that he has accepted Pruitt’s resignation. Trump tweeted that Deputy EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler will become acting administrator as of Monday.

    WASHINGTON – Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Don Beyer (Va.) have requested an investigation into reports that said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt used alternate calendars and schedules to hide meetings he had with energy industry representatives and others.

    “We write regarding new allegations that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt intentionally hid or falsified records of meetings and discussions with representatives of industries regulated by the EPA,” the congressmen wrote in a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. on Thursday.

    The congressmen added: “We request an immediate investigation to determine whether the Administrator violated the Federal Records Act.”

    CNN obtained the letter and first reported the allegations.

    Altering or deleting records of meetings could possibly violate federal law.

    Pruitt is the subject of the 14 investigations.

    Pruitt has come under fire for having rented a condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist for only $50 a night. He has said there was nothing improper about the arrangement. Pruitt has been accused of using taxpayer money for personal travel, opulent office furnishings, and for expanding the size and scope of his security detail beyond that of his predecessors.

    Many Democrats have called on him to resign.

    Pruitt has long been considered a foe of environmental activists. As Oklahoma attorney general he eliminated a unit within the AG’s office charged with prosecuting polluters. Pruitt sued the EPA more than a dozen times during the Obama administration.

    WASHINGTON — EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt tried to hide communication he had with energy industry representatives and others by using alternate calendars and schedules, according to an agency official who spoke with CNN.

    Kevin Chmielewski served as Pruitt’s deputy chief of staff for operations for 13 months. He was fired in March following reports that said he expressed concern about Pruitt’s spending habits directly to the White House.

    Chmielewski told CNN Pruitt staffers frequently met to revise the administrator’s official calendar so as to make it look more acceptable to the public. CNN compared the official calendar with internal records. Chmielewski is expected to soon testify on Capitol Hill, CNN reported.

    Pruitt’s official schedule for April 26, 2017 said his last meeting of the day was with Australian Environmental Minister Josh Frydenberg. Pruitt’s internal calendar said he met with Alliance Resources Partners CEO Joseph Craft at a restaurant inside Trump International Hotel later that day.

    Alliance is the third-largest coal producer in the U.S. Craft contributed $1 million to the Trump campaign, according to media reports.

    A June 2017 meeting between Pruitt and Australian Cardinal George Pell was removed weeks after the cardinal was charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, Chmielewski told CNN. Pell has pleaded not guilty.

    Altering or deleting records of meetings could possibly violate federal law.

    Pruitt is the subject of the 14 investigations.

    Pruitt has come under fire for having rented a condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist for only $50 a night. He has said there was nothing improper about the arrangement. Pruitt has been accused of using taxpayer money for personal travel, opulent office furnishings, and for expanding the size and scope of his security detail beyond that of his predecessors.

    Many Democrats have called on him to resign.

    Pruitt has long been considered a foe of environmental activists. As Oklahoma attorney general he eliminated a unit within the AG’s office charged with prosecuting polluters. Pruitt sued the EPA more than a dozen times during the Obama administration.

    Pruitt has expressed doubt as to whether human activity has exacerbated global warming and while attorney general he received substantial campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry.

    Fifteen state attorneys general sued the EPA in April in a methane emissions control lawsuit related to the rollback of Obama-era standards for cars and trucks.

    Pruitt was heckled at a D.C. restaurant on Monday by a patron who called on him to resign.

    “I would urge you to resign before your scandals push you out,” Kirstin Mink, a D.C.-area school teacher told Pruitt.

    Mink documented the incident in a video posted to her Facebook page.

    Three other Trump administration officials have been harassed at restaurants in the past few weeks.

     

    Gina Haspel during her public confirmation hearing Wednesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee (Photo ©Doug Christian)

    On the Hill with Doug Christian, May 18, 2018

    • Scott Pruitt’s spending
    • Gina Haspel’s CIA confirmation
    • Senate’s August recess

    President Trump signs an executive order on American energy policy and climate regulations. March 28, 2017. Courtesy: White House

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told reporters Friday that he continues to stand by Scott Pruitt as scandals surrounding the embattled Environmental Protection Agency administrator continue to pile up.

    “Yes, I do,” Trump replied when asked during a meeting with auto-manufacturers if he still had confidence in Pruitt.

    The administrator was seated directly next to the president at the time.

    Pruitt has been the subject of controversy for a long list of issues, including living in an apartment co-owned by an energy lobbyist, overseeing pay raises for two top staffers against the White House’s wishes, frequent first-class flights and relying more heavily on a private security detail than previous administrators.

    On Thursday, the New York Times released EPA communications that showed Pruitt dined with a high-ranking cardinal who denies climate change at a pricey restaurant in Rome.

    The cardinal, Australian George Pell, is now under investigation for sexual abuse allegations.

    The White House has maintained that the administration is reviewing the media’s reports on Pruitt, but Press Secretary Sarah Sanders declined to give an update when asked on the status of it last week.

    WASHINGTON – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is refuting claims of ethical misconduct.

    “A lie doesn’t become truth just because its appears on the front page of the newspaper,” Pruitt told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee at a budget hearing on Thursday. “Much of what has been targeted toward me and my team has been half-truths or at best stories that have been so twisted they do not resemble reality.”

    When asked by Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) about the authorization for a employee’s pay raise documented in an Inspector General’s report, Pruitt suggested a subordinate made the decision.

    “Those [documents] were delegated to [EPA Chief of Staff] Mr. [Ryan] Jackson, and the inspector general did reference that in his management alert,” he said.

    Pruitt has come under fire for having rented a condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist for $50 a night. He has said there was nothing improper the arrangement. Pruitt has been accused of using taxpayer money for personal travel, opulent office furnishings, and for expanding the size and scope of his security detail beyond that of his predecessors.

    The embattled EPA chief is the subject of multiple investigations.  Many Democrats have called on him to resign.

    Pruitt has long been considered a foe of environmental activists. As Oklahoma attorney general he eliminated a unit within the AG’s office charged with prosecuting polluters. Pruitt sued the EPA more than a dozen times during the Obama administration.

    Pruitt has expressed doubt as to whether human activity has exacerbated global warming and while attorney general he received substantial campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry.

    Earlier this month 15 state attorneys general sued the EPA in a methane emissions control lawsuit related to the roll-back of Obama-era standards for cars and trucks.

    On the Hill with Doug Christian

    April 26, 2018

    • White House examines Pruitt
    • Pruitt’s 10 investigations
    • Hot topics
    • Sessions ducks questions
    • Macron denounces nationalism
    • Republicans avoid Jackson
    • Republicans unveil spending budget

    By Celia Raney

    WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats on Wednesday are calling for embattled Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt to step down  or be forced out.

    “Mr. Pruitt has been even worse than I expected, Sen. Tom Udall (D–N.M.) said at a news conference Wednesday. “The list of abuses just keeps getting longer.”

    Udall is the leading sponsor on a formal resolution calling for Pruitt’s termination or resignation, which the senator announced while ticking off a list of “perks” Pruitt has received during his tenure.

    Constituents standing behind the senator as he spoke nodded in agreement as he went down the list, citing the rent agreement between Pruitt and the wife of a lobbyist linked to the Keystone Pipeline in Alaska.

    The examples of ethical malfeasance included “lavish first-class flights around the world; swanky hotel stays; taxpayers footing the bill for personal trips to Oklahoma; a $43,000 sound booth in his office; taking 30 EPA enforcement officers away from investigating polluters to serve as his round-the-clock personal security details.”

    The senator said he plans to reveal the resolution next week and said the House will introduce an identical resolution.

    Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) said he is sponsoring the resolution in an effort to restore government standards.

    “Trump and these Republicans are dramatically lowering the bar for government ethics, government accountability and government service,” Schumer said.

    The party leader also pointed a finger at President Donald Trump, referencing one of his campaign promises to “drain the swamp” of imperial politicians.

    “[Pruitt] is the swamp, he has created a new definition of the swamp. If there are any horrible swamp-like characteristics that a cabinet secretary could have, Pruitt’s got them,” Schumer said, adding that the words that come to mind when thinking of Pruitt’s administration include “elitism, corruption, entitlement, and hypocrisy.”

    Citing an incompetent and corrupt administration, Schumer said, “President Trump ought to fire administrator Pruitt or accept his resignation before he can further pollute the swamp or the environment.”

    The EPA did not respond to a call or email from TMN for comment.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies during House hearing, Photo by Doug Christian

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump denied Friday that he was considering replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

    The tweet was likely a response to a CNN report claiming that Trump was holding onto Pruitt in order to eventually tap him to lead the Justice Department.

    Trump has repeatedly expressed frustration with Sessions as well as the Justice Department, oftentimes taking to Twitter to lash out at both.

    Conversely, Trump has expressed confidence in Pruitt, despite the administrator being the subject of multiple scandals, including a revelation that he paid $50 a night to stay in a condo tied to an energy lobbyist.

    “He’s a good man; he’s done a terrific job,” Trump said of Pruitt on Thursday during a brief exchange with reporters aboard Air Force One.

    When asked about the troubles facing Pruitt, Trump replied that he will “take a look at it.”

    “I’ll make that determination.”