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.