Pruitt's Condo Deal, Travel Draw Rebuke From Top Ethics Official

Pruitt's Condo Deal, Travel Draw Rebuke From Top Ethics Official

In the letter, Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics David Apol calls on the EPA's ethics office to review and analyze reports about Pruitt's living arrangement in a Capitol Hill townhouse connected to lobbyists, his travel and security expenses, and reports that he retaliated against staff that raised objections to some of his decisions.

"The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and properly addressed", he wrote.

Specifically, Apol mentioned the controversy surrounding Pruitt's $50-a-night condo rental a year ago from a Washington lobbyist, noting that the EPA chief had not sought an ethics opinion on the arrangement in advance.

The letter says an October 17, 2017, threat assessment states that "at the time there were "no known investigations underway concerning threats to Scott Pruitt" by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and that an open-source review of social media uncovered 'no evidence of a direct threat to the Administrator's life or physical well-being'".

President Donald Trump defended Pruitt in a tweet Saturday night, downplaying the ethical questions swirling around his embattled EPA chief. She previously worked with Pruitt in the Oklahoma attorney general's office. The OGE does not have authority to take action with respect to any possible violation, according to CNN.

But details about any threats to Pruitt are sparse.

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said Pruitt has accomplished key priorities as EPA head, mainly in reversing "punishing regulations" imposed under President Barack Obama.

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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. The letter cites Pruitt's $50-a-night rental of a condominium tied to an energy lobbyist, his frequent government-funded flights home to Oklahoma, and his reported firing or demoting EPA staff who raised concerns about his actions.

"First, that is clearly not the Fox News tone that Pruitt was expecting", Oliver said.

Jennifer Kaplan, the spokeswoman for the inspector general, also confirmed Monday that the internal watchdog has received multiple requests from members of Congress and the public for his office to examine whether Pruitt's condo rental constituted an impermissible gift under federal ethic rules. Pruitt had planned to travel to Mexico this week, according to multiple agency officials, but has postponed the visit. More than ever, it is clear that Pruitt is unfit to serve.

The EPA's internal watchdog began looking into Pruitt's frequent travel back to Oklahoma in August of past year.

But, they added, "Another view is that certain factions within E.P.A. have justified the exorbitant taxpayer spending incurred by the administrator's first-class travel and large entourage of security personnel through unsubstantiated claims about threats to his security, either at the direction of the administrator himself or others in the agency".

A nationwide search of state and federal court records by the AP found no case where anyone has been arrested or charged with threatening Pruitt.

But the new documents detail an ongoing disagreement among the agency's intelligence officials, the EPA inspector general and senior political appointees over the level of threat Pruitt faces.

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