Pruitt admits lying, blames others, and leaves behind a cloud of questions: 3 takeaways from today’s hearings

After a month of revelations and allegations about his tenure in EPA and in Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt finally had a chance to provide straight answers to Congress about his mounting ethics problems.  The results were not encouraging:

  1. Caught:

    The top story coming out of today’s hearings is that Scott Pruitt admitted that he lied.

    He told Members of Congress that he knew about his employee raises, despite having told Fox News on April 4 that “I found out this yesterday.”

    CNN reports:

    “Several senior EPA officials reacted in shock Thursday. One EPA official told CNN that a sense of ‘a collective “Oh sh**” came out of EPA HQ’ when Pruitt admitted he knew of the raises.

    Aides for weeks knew that Pruitt had lied in his Fox News interview, but were stunned that he contradicted himself so publicly on Thursday.”

    Added John Roberts from Fox News: “This may be the end of the line.”

  2. Says it not his fault:

    Asked about multiple accusations of ethical problems, Pruitt shifted blame to everyone else: Milan Hupp, Ryan Jackson, Kell Kelly, and anyone else carrying out his orders, and at one point, “the process.”

  3. Dodges the Questions:


    Many big questions were left unanswered, including:

    • $43,000 Phone Booth: Pruitt insisted that he asked for a “secure line” because of a single telephone call. What was so important about that incident? And Pruitt went on to admit that such calls are “rare”—if so, why can’t he go to one of EPA’s two other secure phones, as his predecessors did?
    • Illegal Use of Government staff: Pruitt said that he was “not aware” of Millan Hupp spending government time looking for his apartment. Unanswered: Did he ask Millan Hupp—or anyone else on his staff — to look for an apartment for him?
    • Demoting Staff: Did Pruitt tell his chief of staff not to come to travel planning meetings after he raised concerns about Pruitt’s travel?
    • Kell Kelly: Did Pruitt ever inquire why Kell Kelly was banned for life from banking by the FDIC when he hired him?
    • Condo: On the condo lease, why was Stephen Hart’s name originally typed in as “landlord,” but then scratched out and the name of his wife scribbled in?
    • Private Jet: Was it Pruitt who sought to have the EPA pay $100,000 per month to rent a private jet, as Trump campaign staffer and EPA employee Kevin Chmielewski claims?
    • Morocco Trip: Before traveling to Morocco, why was Pruitt’s only briefing before the trip conducted by political staff, not career staff in the agency’s international affairs office, which typically coordinates foreign trips?
    • Oklahoma Travel: As Oklahoma Attorney General, in January 2016 Pruitt traveled to Washington, D.C., costing taxpayers more than $1,000 to meet with the Federalist Society and Club for Growth. Did Pruitt reimburse taxpayers? Did he use taxpayer money for political or personal trips?
    • Enforcement: Why did Pruitt try to end EPA funding for Justice Department Superfund enforcement efforts, and cut EPA enforcement against criminal polluters?
    • Super-polluting trucks: EPA proposed a loophole for super-polluting glider trucks, citing an industry-funded study now being investigated for research misconduct. Will it withdraw the proposal?

There are many more unanswered questions .

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