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EPA inspector general to open ‘new reviews’ into Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, tried to talk about anything other than his ethics issues in front of Congress April 26. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general will open “new reviews” into ethics questions surrounding Administrator Scott Pruitt, including his $50-a-night rental of a lobbyist’s Capitol Hill condo last year.

Word of the latest inquiry into Pruitt’s spending and management decisions came Friday in a letter to two Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Don Beyer (Va.) and Ted Lieu (Calif.). The pair had asked the agency’s watchdog to examine Pruitt’s unusual housing arrangement and the fact that he only recently sought an ethics approval for the lease.

In his letter, EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins Jr. noted that his office had received a similar request earlier in the month from a top official at the Office of Government Ethics and others about Pruitt’s housing and security costs, travel expenses, pay raises for certain employees and additional issues.

“We have received multiple requests from multiple members of Congress, as well as other OIG Hotline complaints, regarding these same and related issues,” Elkins wrote, saying his office had decided to look at each allegation against Pruitt.

“Some of these matters will be reviewed as part of previously announced and still ongoing OIG reviews,” he added. “Some will be the impetus for new reviews.”

A spokeswoman for the inspector general said in an email Friday that officials will open a probe into Pruitt’s 2017 rental from lobbyist Vicki Hart. “It’s safe to say that a review into the administrator’s housing arrangements will be a new one,” Jennifer Kaplan said.

Asked about the latest inquiry, agency spokesman Jahan Wilcox replied via email, “We do not comment on matters pertaining to EPA’s IG.”

The latest probe comes as Pruitt faces more than a half-dozen inquiries into his spending habits, living arrangements and management at the agency. The investigations are taking place within both the House and Senate, the EPA and the White House.

Last week, an investigation by the Government Accountability Office found Pruitt’s installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth had violated federal spending laws. Days later, the EPA’s inspector general announced that he would examine Pruitt’s use of his round-the-clock security detail while on personal trips, including a family visit to Disneyland and attendance at sporting events such as the Rose Bowl and a University of Kentucky basketball game.

Pruitt was grilled about his spending and management practices during two hearings Thursday on Capitol Hill. But he conceded few missteps during his tenure, instead accusing the news media for unfair coverage and saying his aides and career officials at the agency had signed off on controversial spending decisions.

“Those who have attacked the EPA and attacked me are doing so because they want to derail the president’s agenda. I’m not going to let that happen,” Pruitt told lawmakers.

Separately on Friday, Pruitt issued a memo giving several deputies authority over any large expenditures on his behalf.

“It is my priority to ensure that all expenditures incurred in support of my duties reflect my judgment and demonstrate good stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” Pruitt wrote. “Effective immediately, the Deputy Administrator, Chief of Staff, and Chief Financial Officer will have final approval over expenditures by agency personnel over $5,000 on my behalf to execute my official duties.”

Read more:

Scott Pruitt admits little culpability in EPA controversies, mostly blames aides and staff

‘A factory of bad ideas’: How Scott Pruitt undermined his mission at EPA

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