Embattled but still arrogant and unrepentant, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt finally admitted today before a Congressional committee that he had previously lied when he said in a Fox News interview and before Congress that he had no knowledge of unusually large raises given to two of his closest aides at the agency.
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Pruitt reversed his previous claim he had no involvement in the discussions about the salaries of EPA Senior Counsel Sarah Greenwalt and the EPA’s Director of Scheduling and Advance Millan Hupp. Pruitt recruited both individuals from Oklahoma where he had been Attorney General before Trump tapped him to run the EPA.
Pruitt told the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on environment that in fact he did know about the raises given out despite objections from the White House personnel office.
“I was aware of one of those individuals was receiving a raise,” Pruitt told Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Ill.) according to The Washington Post.
Greenwalt had received a 52% raise last month and Hupp got a 33% increase.
The Washington Post had reported last month that Greenwalt sent an email to a colleague in the EPA HR department which said the raises had been “discussed” with Pruitt.
Initially during the three hour period Pruitt was on the hot seat, he had been asked by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) about the raises but had lied. “I was not aware of the amount, nor was I aware of the (HR office) process not being respected.”
Contentious exchange between between Rep. Tonko and Pruitt, who says he wasn't aware of the process behind the big raises given to two of his aides. Tonko responds: "I'm concerned that you have no idea what is going on in your name at your agency." (ABC) pic.twitter.com/yRJNJU0mMs
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 26, 2018
Pruitt seemed to go off his planned script when he admitted he knew about the raises.
“Several staffers said he huddled privately with his closest aides, outlining plans to blame others for some decisions, such as the large pay raise give two staffers who moved with him from Oklahoma to Washington,” noted the Washington Post
When Pruitt told the truth today, that sent shock waves across Washington and especially at the EPA.One EPA official even told CNN that a sense of “a collective ‘Oh sh**’ came out of EPA HQ when Pruitt admitted he knew of the raises.
Pruitt was under fire during the hearing for numerous issues from his expensive travel to the $43,000 phone booth he requested for his office for which to make private phone calls.
Pruitt claimed that he was a victim of a political attack by people who do not like him carrying out President Trump’s agenda, with some Republicans sympathetic.
However, Democrats on the committee did not hold back on how they felt.
Rep. Tonko, the ranking Democrat on the committee, listed multiple charges including the administrator’s financial dealings and professional decisions, adding, “And in almost all cases, the more we have learned, the worse they get.”
“You have failed as a steward of American taxpayer dollars and of the environment,” Tonko told Pruitt.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), bluntly told Pruitt: “You are unfit to hold public office, and you are undeserving of the public trust,” adding in any other White House, you would “be long gone.”
Rep. Pallone to EPA Admin. Scott Pruitt: "I just think that every indication we have is that you really should resign, and you are undeserving of the public trust."
(corrects: title) pic.twitter.com/YnB46Kj5jd
— NBC Politics (@NBCPolitics) April 26, 2018
Despite some White House complaints about Pruitt, Trump continues to support him because Pruitt props up Trump’s anti-science narrative and the systemic dismantling of every protection the EPA was created to establish.