Trump environment chief grilled by Congress

Trump environment chief grilled by Congress

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at a congressional hearing Thursday. The Government Accountability Office has determined the EPA violated a federal law by purchasing the booth without notifying Congress.

Pruitt and the White House have a tense relationship.

Pruitt appeared before two House subcommittees Thursday to defend himself against accusations that he misused funds or committed ethics violations, saying the various situations were either aboveboard or someone else's fault.

Greenwalt's pay shot up $66,000, to $164,200; Hupp's went up $48,000, to $114,590. But the officials have also said that they didn't have all the information at the time they made the initial finding and that their statements only apply to whether it was an improper gift, not if it was a conflict of interest.

Pruitt has drawn scrutiny for frequent travel to his home state of Oklahoma at taxpayer expense, questionable spending decisions at the environmental agency, raises given to two top aides over White House objections, and allegations that some employees were sidelined after questioning his decisions.

"I'm concerned that the progress being made on the policy front is being undercut by allegations about your management of the agency and use of its resources", said Republican Rep. Greg Walden. He should say it again to the man in the mirror.

Blasting back at Democrats, Republican Rep. David McKinley argued their attempts to question Pruitt was a "classic display of innuendo and McCarthyism", adding he hoped the questions would stay focused on policy but "some just can't resist the limelight, the opportunity to grandstand".

Pruitt faces more than a half-dozen investigations. "How can he assume that him being there is beneficial to President Trump?" "There is some hope we are seeing the economy start to rebound, thanks to you and the administration taking this fight on". Welch retorted the answer was "knowable", and not "secret stuff".

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Rep. Tom Cole, a Moore Republican who has known Pruitt for decades, said he expects the EPA administrator to uncover and solve any problems within the agency.

"I don't think Cabinet members have to be 100 percent flawless", he said.

Environmental groups opposed to Pruitt's efforts to gut anti-pollution regulations have attempted to ramp up the pressure this week, paying for TV ads attacking Pruitt to be aired during the "Fox & Friends" morning show on Fox News. "Those who attack the EPA and attack me are doing so because they want to attack and derail the president's agenda and undermine this administration's priorities".

With Pruitt's job appearing safe - at least for now - Tonko said that Democratic lawmakers are going to continue to try and hold the administrator accountable, both to Congress and the public.

Pruitt stands accused of living in a condo owned by the wife of a lobbyist who worked with the EPA, allowing hefty pay raises for two top staffers, spending tens of thousands of dollars on a sound-proof phone booth, and allowing staff members who criticized him to be reassigned, suspended or removed, among other things.

During a hearing before a committee that oversees the EPA's budget, Kaptur told Pruitt she's "a little offended" that he hadn't accepted invitations that she and Bainbridge Township GOP Rep. Dave Joyce had extended to visit Lake Erie. "We'll just see", McConnell said. Other protestors carrying posters that said "Mr. Corruption" also sat behind Pruitt as he testified.

President Donald Trump is standing by his EPA chief.