The EPA’s Inspector General expanded a probe into agency chief Scott Pruitt’s air travel after congressional Democrats argued the review needed to be broadened.
The scope of the review is now expanded to include Pruitt’s travel through the end of Dec. 2017, according to a press statement Wednesday from the Inspector General’s Office. It previously limited the scope of the review through the end of Sept. 2017 before lawmakers asked for its expansion.
Investigators are reviewing whether Pruitt misused money during his official travel, specifically regarding one chartered flight and multiple government flights that cost more than $58,000. It would also look into whether he followed the procedures when traveling back to his home state of Oklahoma.
They are also trying to determine if Pruitt misused appropriated funds on a “privacy booth” with a secure phone line, according to a letter to Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Critics scrutinized the watchdog group in 2016 for its handling of an investigation into the 2015 Gold King mine disaster.
Investigators did not explain what, if anything, specifically led to their decision to expand the review. But Pruitt’s decision to make a pit stop in Israel later this month raised the ire of many Democrats on Capitol Hill, many that were involved with the initial push to open reviews.
“Perhaps he figured out ways to help Israeli polluters … Nothing comes readily to mind,” Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, told Politico earlier this month. Whitehouse obtained records of Pruitt’s travel records in October and later used the information to compel the EPA’s watchdog group to begin the review.
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