A Democratic lawmaker known for concealing ties with environmentalists used a report from a liberal advocacy group to highlight Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt’s past comments criticizing President Donald Trump.
Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, pressed Pruitt Tuesday on newly released documents from 2016 that show the former Oklahoma attorney general opposed Trump during the campaign. The report was based on comments Pruitt made in February 2016 when he was advising former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, during the presidential election.
“Donald Trump in the White House would be more abusive to the Constitution than Barack Obama,” Pruitt said on “The Pat Campbell Show” prior to the election, according to an audio recording liberal advocacy group Documented obtained earlier this month. The group describes itself as an organization that investigates “how corporations manipulate public policy that harms our environment, communities and democracy.”
Whitehouse, a frequent critic of Trump and his EPA chief, pounced on the report while questioning Pruitt during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing. He peppered Pruitt with questions about the recording, asking the embattled EPA chief if he recalled the statements. Pruitt said, “I don’t, senator. And I don’t echo that today at all.” Whitehouse responded: “I bet not.”
The EPA sent out a statement from Pruitt reiterating his endorsement of the president’s policies and administration. “After meeting him, and now having the honor of working for him, it is abundantly clear that President Trump is the most consequential leader of our time,” he said.
Whitehouse, for his part, has a history of concealing connections to environmentalist groups, particularly those that target energy companies. EPA’s critics are in cahoots with shadowy figures in the fossil fuel industry, a 2016 report on his website noted. The report was published at a time when conservatives were in full revolt against Obama’s climate policies.
The document was created in conjunction with EarthJustice, a green legal group that was at the time defending the EPA in courts, according to data obtained at the time by the Washington Free Beacon. A new version of the report materialized online after reporters reached out to Whitehouse for comment. The new version was scrubbed of digital fingerprints and any links to David Baron, an EarthJustice attorney working on behalf of the Sierra Club.
Documented’s senior fellow Nick Surgey wrote the Tuesday report. He is also a research director for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a liberal group that sued Pruitt in 2016 for allegedly violating his state’s Open Records Act.
CMD was attempting at the time to force Pruitt to respond to nine open-records requests in January 2015 to see nearly 3,000 emails between his office and oil companies. Whitehouse accused Pruitt shortly after stonewalling the request for information about his relationships with industry.
“I hope this lawsuit forces Attorney General Pruitt to stop the cover-up and disclose these emails immediately, so the American people know what conflicts of interest this nominee has,” Whitehouse said in a press statement at the time.
Surgey and Whitehouse have not responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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