Democratic lawmakers sent letters to the White House and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that revealed a likely source of leaks to the media regarding Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Democrats want EPA to handover documents in an effort to substantiate allegations EPA Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Kevin Chmielewski made. Chmielewski detailed allegations previously reported from news outlets related to Pruitt’s first-class travel, living arrangements, and giving raises to close aides.
Chmielewski featured prominently in a recent The New York Times story on Pruitt’s removing or reassigning of five agency officials, including the former deputy. Many claims made in NYT’s article are also made by Chmielewski in Democrats’ letter.
“The new information provided by Mr. Chmielewski, if accurate, leaves us certain that your leadership at EPA has been fraught with numerous and repeated unethical and potentially illegal actions on a wide range of consequential matters that you and some members of your staff directed,” five Democratic lawmakers wrote in their letter.
NYT’s own write-up of Democrats’ letter notes it “corroborates details previously reported by The New York Times, including that Mr. Pruitt and others at the agency retaliated against staff members, including Mr. Chmielewski, when they objected to the spending requests.”
Chmielewski objected to Pruitt staffers plan to “enter into a $100,000 per month contract to rent a private jet” and when Pruitt “spent well beyond the $5,000 allowed by law to decorate your office,” he told Democrats. Both allegations are mentioned in previous NYT reporting and the EPA has challenged said claims.
“[S]taff members questioned, but nonetheless approved, frequent trips that routed Mr. Pruitt through hub airports that allowed him to spend weekends at his home in Oklahoma” — an accusation also mentioned in Democrats’ letter, though there are more specifics — NYT also reported.
Chmielewski also challenged EPA’s claim Pruitt didn’t know about raises given to two Oklahoma staffers who followed him to the agency. The decision was “100 percent Pruitt himself,” Chmielewski said. The Atlantic first reported of the raises, which were given despite White House objections.
Chmielewski, however, is only one of several current and former President Donald Trump administration officials likely leaking Pruitt stories to the press.
Former White House official Rob Porter is reportedly one of the leakers, sources recently told Inside EPA. The leaks were a “tit for tat” for EPA senior counsel Samantha Dravis telling White House counsel Don McGahn Porter assaulted his two ex-wives, Inside EPA reported.
A “recently dismissed EPA political appointee is behind a string of controversial stories about Pruitt that have come to light in recent weeks,” an administration source told Politico. Chmielewski is the only political appointee mentioned in NYT’s report on “sidelined” employees.
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