Trump Doubles Down on Pruitt, for Now

Environmental Protection Agency Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson is taking the fall for the controversial, hefty raises given to two of Scott Pruitt's closest aides who joined the EPA after working with Administrator Pruitt in Oklahoma.

Still, even for the 22 regulatory actions that have been finalized under Pruitt's leadership, the savings cheered by Trump and Republican allies are mostly compliance costs - meaning that they would have been shouldered by industry, not the American taxpayer. Having set their caps to get Pruitt's scalp, the media has been targeting him with both sneers and smears in a host of stories questioning his ethics and his need for heightened security measures when he travels.

Several new and expanded probes are underway into Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt's conduct.

The Democrats also obtained a February 14 assessment from EPA's Office of Homeland Security Intelligence that concluded "EPA Intelligence has not identified any specific, credible, direct threat to the EPA administrator".

"Consequently, in an instance in which the EPA ethics office lacks sufficient evidence to assess fully an ethics matter, we have a long-standing practice of referring it to the EPA's Inspector General (IG) for investigation", Kevin Minoli, EPA's top ethics official, wrote in an April 9 letter.

"We'll nitpick little things: he has too many people on his security detail, it may add up to more than what the previous guy did", he said.

But Trump's assertion appears to be on shaky ground, with a senior investigative reporter at BuzzFeed announcing he had filed a freedom of information request with the EPA to ascertain how many death threats Pruitt had received during his tenure.

Pruitt has done a fantastic job of showing he can be a friend - by hiring an Oklahoma banker who gave Pruitt three mortgages and a loan and who later was banned for life from banking by federal regulators, to oversee the Superfund program at $172,000 a year.

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Pruitt on Wednesday defended his actions and questionable spending on the apartment and other expenses, in an exclusive Fox News interview.

The Associated Press reported Friday that EPA has spent about $3 million on Pruitt's security measures, which included flying first-class and using a full-time security detail of 20 armed officers.

Lankford, who authors an annual report on wasteful government spending, called Pruitt a "dedicated public servant" during his introduction, saying Pruitt "respects the importance of our federalist foundation and the pocketbooks of hardworking families".

The Atlantic was first to report on Monday, citing EPA internal emails, that Pruitt was aware of the new salaries for aides Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp.

Pruitt must be fired.

At least three congressional Republicans and a chorus of Democrats have called for Pruitt's ouster. The EPA official said there are legitimate concerns about Pruitt's safety, given public opposition to his rollbacks of anti-pollution measures.

Such efforts reportedly included almost $9,000 a year ago on sweeping his office for hidden listening devices and biometric locks for the doors - and spending $43,000 for a soundproof phone booth for Pruitt's office.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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