Sunday, 22 April, 2018

Rep. Gowdy: Maybe Pruitt Should Become a 'Monk' Instead

Ex-Trump aide on leave after questioning Pruitt's spending House panel asks Pruitt for documents, interviews with top aides
Kenny Thornton | 17 April, 2018, 03:47

A government watchdog agency concluded that the Environmental Protection Agency violated federal law in spending more than $43,000 to install a private phone booth in EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's office, according to a report obtained by ABC News.

"W$3 e conclude that EPA violated section 710 [of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act] when it obligated $43,238.68 for the installation of a soundproof privacy booth without providing advance notice to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate", Thomas H. Armstrong, the GAO's general counsel, wrote. In addition, GAO found that since EPA spent its appropriated funds in a way banned by the law, it also broke the Antideficiency Act and needs to report its violation to Congress and the president.

Pruitt had the booth built, according to the GAO, at the request of his security team so that he had a place to make and take "classified" phone calls and other calls to "discuss sensitive information".

The GAO rejected the EPA's justification, calling it "inconsistent with the plain reading" of the federal law. Previous EPA chiefs did not use a secured phone booth in their office to run the agency.

The privacy booth, which Pruitt had told lawmakers in a hearing was needed to conduct agency business, was built in a spot of a former storage closet in the administrator's office. The lawmaker cited "new information" his committee had obtained regarding Pruitt's official travel and his housing rental agreement a year ago with the wife of an energy lobbyist.

US tells watchdog Russia 'may have tampered' with Douma attack site
She noted that "a large body of information" indicated that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in Douma on April 7.

Pruitt's continued leadership of the environmental agency has been under fire since the revelation two weeks ago that he lived in a bargain-priced Capitol Hill condo tied to a fossil fuels lobbyist. They blasted the EPA chief after the decision was released today.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt's ethics problems keep piling up.

"EPA is addressing GAO's concern, with regard to Congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week", said Liz Bowman, an EPA spokeswoman. Tom Udall, a Democrat from New Mexico, in a statement. Donald Trump shouldn't wait to see what ethical norm or law Pruitt breaks next.

In a letter earlier last week, Gowdy said EPA has failed to hand over several documents related to Pruitt's travel spending that the committee requested in February.

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