Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt survived his third congressional hearing this year, responding to allegations he overspent and violated government ethics rules.
Democrats have asked Pruitt to resign over alleged overspending and ethical violations, and lawmakers wasted no time in grilling the administrator of such scandals. Democrats pull no punches in their indictment of Pruitt.
“Your tenure at the EPA is a betrayal of the American people,” New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall, a top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Appropriations, told Pruitt.
Pruitt also admitted one of his close aides, Millan Hupp, helped him identify a new apartment to rent in D.C., though Pruitt said, “It’s my understanding that all activity there was on personal time” and he did not pay her to find him housing.
“Then that’s a gift. That’s a violation of federal law,” Udall alleged.
Sen. Patrick Leahy grilled Pruitt on flying first class, which the EPA was approved by agency officials for security reasons. EPA security officials have detailed incidents where people hurled insults and angry words at Pruitt, which Leahy mocked.
“What a silly reason you had to fly first class,” Leahy said. “Nobody even knows who you are.”
Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen pressed Pruitt for answers about a legal defense fund reportedly set up to defend the administrator from legal attacks. A legal defense fund had indeed been set up and donations to it would be disclosed, Pruitt said.
“It’s been set up,” Pruitt said, adding his attorney worked with the White House and Government Accountability Office to ensure if follow federal law.
Pruitt, however, did have responses prepared for many of the criticisms levied against him. Looking back, Pruitt said there were some decisions he would not have made, but he also suggested he was being targeted for implementing President Donald Trump’s agenda.
“I knew as I began this process over 16 months ago that the issues would be competitive; there are world views that drive decisions we make at the agency,” Pruitt told senators during the hearing.
While there are reports some top White House officials want Pruitt removed from office, Trump has consistently supported Pruitt in public statements. “[I] still [have] confidence in the job [Pruitt] is doing,” Trump told CNN a few days ago.