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Politics Pressure Mounts on Scott Pruitt, E.P.A. Chief, as Top Advisers Eye the Exit

22:41  05 april  2018
22:41  05 april  2018 Source:   nytimes.com

Trump offers support to embattled EPA head

  Trump offers support to embattled EPA head President Donald Trump is offering his support to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency who is at the center of many ethics questions. Two administration officials confirmed that the president called Scott Pruitt on Monday and told him that "we've got your back." Two administration officials confirmed that the president called Scott Pruitt on Monday and told him that "we've got your back.

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Scott Pruitt , the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, with his top policy adviser , Samantha Dravis, at Trump Tower in 2016. Senior White House officials say that Mr. Pruitt ’s fate has become uncertain. On Thursday, one of the central questions facing the E . P . A . chief — his decision in 2017 to

a group of people standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, with his top policy adviser, Samantha Dravis, at Trump Tower in 2016. Ms. Dravis is said to be resigning. © Andrew Harnik/Associated Press Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, with his top policy adviser, Samantha Dravis, at Trump Tower in 2016. Ms. Dravis is said to be resigning.

WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is under increased White House scrutiny over his housing and travel arrangements as some of his own senior staff are expressing growing frustration with the public criticism of their boss, according to four people, including an E.P.A. official, who have spoken with the staff members.

Mr. Pruitt has emerged as one of President Trump’s top lieutenants as well as a conservative hero for his aggressiveness in loosening or undoing dozens of environmental regulations while weakening many of the agency’s clean-air and water-enforcement programs. But the series of ethical questions is threatening his good standing with the president and driving away some senior staffers.

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How Scott Pruitt Responded to Scandals. Scott Pruitt , the former head of the Environmental Partial transcripts from one of those interviews revealed that Mr. Pruitt used one of his top aides last year The E . P . A . has denied any wrongdoing on Mr. Pruitt ’s behalf. As the scandals mounted through the

RELATED: EPA chief Scott Pruitt 's long list of controversies. It also comes two days after an exclusive CNN investigation revealed a former top aide alleged Pruitt Two EPA officials told CNN they found out about Pruitt 's resignation from Trump's tweet and had no idea the news was coming.

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Samantha Dravis, Mr. Pruitt’s top policy adviser, has recently told him she is resigning, according to two E.P.A. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the news has not been made public. And his chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, has grown frustrated enough with his boss that he has considered resigning, according to people in whom Mr. Jackson has confided.

Mr. Jackson and Ms. Dravis did not respond to requests for comment.

Both Ms. Dravis and Mr. Jackson are seasoned Washington insiders who have worked for years among the capital’s top conservative Republicans and industry lobbyists.

Ms. Dravis’ departure comes on the heels of questions raised by Senator Thomas Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, about her work history.

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Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned. | President Donald Trump announced Thursday afternoon that he had accepted Pruitt ’s resignation and Pruitt ’s Deputy Andrew Wheeler will be taking over Pruitt ’s responsibilities as the Acting EPA Administrator starting

According to a letter that Mr. Carper sent to the E.P.A. inspector general, Ms. Dravis did not attend work or perform her duties for most of November, December and January while continuing to draw a salary. The March 28 letter, obtained by The New York Times, said the information “raises questions” about whether the agency is adhering to internal rules regarding employee time and attendance.

A spokesman for the E.P.A. inspector general, Jeffrey Lagda, confirmed that his office has received the request and said he could not comment on whether the agency has taken up the investigation.

Among the allegations surrounding Mr. Pruitt is that the E.P.A. chief created the appearance of impropriety for an arrangement in which he paid $50 a night for a room in a Capitol Hill apartment that was owned in part by the wife of a top energy lobbyist.

In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, Mr. Pruitt pushed back on suggestions he had committed an ethical violation by renting the apartment. Asked if renting from the wife of a Washington lobbyist violated Mr. Trump’s mantra of “draining the swamp,” Mr. Pruitt responded, “I don’t think that’s even remotely fair to ask that question.”

Kelly wants Trump to remove Pruitt: report

  Kelly wants Trump to remove Pruitt: report White House chief of staff John Kelly has told President Trump that he thinks Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has to go, The Wall Street Journal reported.But despite Kelly's conclusion — and that of other White House aides — that Pruitt's recent scandals should push him out of the Trump administration, the president doesn't want to fire him, the Journal said Friday, citing a White House official.

Scott Pruitt resigns: Trump's scandal-ridden EPA chief steps down. Pruitt became a trusted adviser to Trump, helping convince the president the US In his final days as EPA chief , Pruitt was seeking to sign away the EPA ’s right to veto certain projects that cause major harm to the environment.

Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt has resigned after months of inquiries into a Early in Mr Pruitt 's tenure as EPA chief , he reportedly requested that his motorcade use flashing Nothing is going to top Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson's since cancelled

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On Wednesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, was asked whether Mr. Trump was “O.K.” with Mr. Pruitt’s apartment arrangement. “The president’s not,” she said. “We’re reviewing the situation. When we have had a chance to have a deeper dive on it, we’ll let you know the outcomes of that, but we’re currently reviewing that here at the White House.”

Thursday afternoon, though, Mr. Trump when asked aboard Air Force One if he had confidence in his E.P.A. chief, he responded: “I do.”

Last week, the E.P.A. made public a memo from the agency’s ethics counsel stating that the price Mr. Pruitt paid for the use of the apartment was reasonable market value. But in a new memo made public on Thursday, the same lawyer concluded that he did not have all the facts available when making that initial assessment.

Walter J. Shaub, a senior ethics official under President Barack Obama, said the original ethics opinion was predicated on the understanding that Mr. Pruitt was leasing only one room, but new reports have surfaced that his daughter, McKenna Pruitt, stayed there while she was a White House Intern.

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  Pelosi calls on EPA's Pruitt to resign House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the president's Environmental Protection Agency administrator must go.Pelosi says Scott Pruitt's tenure has been "part of the Trump administration's culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence." The top Democrat says in a statement, "Pruitt must resign.

The pressure on Pruitt has been building for some time. Already by the middle of April, four House Republicans had called on Pruitt to leave the post after reports surfaced about the “Yes EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt should resign,” tweeted Representative Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) on April 22.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigns. Trump administration's big exits in 2018. Pruitt came to Washington already a controversial figure, and since taking the helm of an agency he once battled, he has faced a series of inquiries and bruising Ultimately, Pruitt resigned July 5 as the controversies mounted .

The Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group for which Mr. Shaub now works, obtained the memo, which was first reported by CNN.

“If it turns out Pruitt’s daughter was allowed to stay in the other room, he had both rooms in the residence. There’s a big difference in what you’d pay to stay in a flop house with strangers and what you’d pay to have a place to yourself,” Mr. Shaub said in an interview.

On Thursday morning, Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesman, said on Fox News, “I can’t speak to the future of Scott Pruitt.”

In Mr. Pruitt’s interview Wednesday on Fox News, he also denied responsibility for significant pay raises that were given to two staff members and which have subsequently been questioned.

The aides, Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp, had both worked for Mr. Pruitt in Oklahoma, where he served as attorney general before coming to the E.P.A. Ms. Greenwalt’s salary was raised to $164,200 from $107,435, while Ms. Hupp’s was raised to $114,590 from $86,460.

“My staff did and I found out about that yesterday and I changed it,” Mr. Pruitt said. “The officials that were involved in that process should not have done what they did.”

______

A Pruitt Primer

Over the course of Scott Pruitt’s first year as E.P.A. administrator, there have been a series of questions raised about his practices and management of the agency. Here is a primer:

64 House Dems ask Trump to fire Pruitt

  64 House Dems ask Trump to fire Pruitt Dozens of House Democrats asked President Trump on Friday to fire Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt. The 64 Democrats, led by Reps. Don Beyer (Va.) and David Cicilline (R.I.), listed a whole host of recent scandals dogging Pruitt, saying he has to go now."Scott Pruitt's unethical behavior, wasteful use of taxpayer money, and his efforts to undermine the EPA's core mission to protect our environment and public health demand an appropriate response: his resignation or his firing," they wrote.

Pruitt announces departures of Pasquale ‘Nino’ Perrotta and Albert Kelly but doesn’t say why they’re leaving.

Mr. Pruitt has spoken personally with Mr. Trump about the idea, and the president expressed enthusiasm for it, according to people familiar with the conversations. But the plan encountered widespread resistance within the administration from Mr. Kelly and other top officials

Housing

During the first half of 2017, the E.P.A. chief paid $50 a night for a room in a Capitol Hill apartment that was owned in part by the wife of a top energy lobbyist.

A chorus of lawmakers, mostly Democrats, are demanding an investigation of Mr. Pruitt’s living arrangements, and at least one Republican, Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, has called for Mr. Pruitt to step down.

The E.P.A. made public a memo from the agency’s ethics counsel stating that the price Mr. Pruitt paid was reasonable market value, and in an interview with a columnist for The Washington Examiner, Mr. Pruitt said he was under attack because he was implementing Mr. Trump’s agenda. The E.P.A. ethics counsel, however, has since revised his view and suggested that he didn’t have all the facts available to him when making the initial assessment.

Travel

Mr. Pruitt remains under fire for first-class and business-class travel.

Records obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project and reviewed by The New York Times showed that two weeks of travel in June for the administrator and his aides cost taxpayers more than $120,000. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is reviewing Mr. Pruitt’s travel, as is the E.P.A.’s inspector general.

On Tuesday, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, wrote to Mr. Pruitt asking him to explain a $40,000 five-day trip to Morocco with staff in December. Mr. Whitehouse cited the administrator’s calendar for the trip, which showed one full workday and two other days with one hourlong meeting each.

The E.P.A. did not respond to a request for comment.

Raises

Amid the scrutiny of Mr. Pruitt’s travel and personal finances, other issues are brewing inside the agency.

The Atlantic published an article this week showing that the administrator bypassed the usual White House procedures to give political appointees substantial raises. The aides, Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp, had both worked for Mr. Pruitt in Oklahoma, where he served as attorney general before coming to the E.P.A. Ms. Greenwalt’s salary was raised to $164,200 from $107,435, while Ms. Hupp’s was raised to $114,590 from $86,460.

Citing anonymous sources, the article outlines how Mr. Pruitt reappointed the aides with higher salaries under a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act after the White House did not approve the raises. The E.P.A. did not dispute the story.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis contributed reporting.

EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Is a Man of Many Email Addresses .
Scott Pruitt, meet Richard Windsor. Two Democratic senators said EPA Administrator Pruitt has been using three different "secret" epa.gov email accounts in addition to his official address and have asked the agency’s inspector general to look into the matter.The allegation evokes memories of former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s use of a second email address to correspond with people outside the agency. Jackson, who served under former President Barack Obama, used the alias "Richard Windsor" -- apparently a name borrowed from a family dog.

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