EPA’s Pruitt faces senators’ question on spending, security

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WASHINGTON — Embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt said he doesn’t remember asking his security detail to use lights and sirens to speed his government-owned SUV through Washington traffic, even as Democratic senators disclosed an internal email saying he did.

The email written in February 2017 by then-EPA special agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta has the subject line “Lights and Sirens” and added “Btw – Administrator encourages the use.”

Pruitt later promoted Perrotta to lead his personal protective detail. Former EPA officials have told The Associated Press that Pruitt made the change after Perrotta’s predecessor refused to use lights and sirens in non-emergency situations, such as when the administrator was running late for dinner reservations or going to the airport.

Under sharp questioning by Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, the top Democrat on a Senate appropriations subcommittee that questioned Pruitt on Wednesday, the EPA chief denied making the request.

“I don’t recall that happening,” Pruitt said, adding that he was confident his security team followed the applicable policies.

It was one of several instances during Wednesday’s hearing that Pruitt either said he couldn’t recall details about requests he made regarding his personal security or where he blamed subordinates for making those decisions.

Two weeks ago, Pruitt announced Perrotta’s early retirement amid questions about whether he improperly recommended a business partner for an EPA security contract and outside work he performed as a private investigator for a tabloid newspaper.

The panel’s chairman, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, kicked off the hearing by expressing concern that allegations over Pruitt’s ethical missteps are overshadowing the Trump administration’s pro-business regulatory rollbacks.

“I’m being asked, really constantly asked, to comment on security and on housing and on travel. I’m reading about your interactions with representatives of the industries that you regulate” Murkowski told Pruitt at a hearing normally expected to focus on budget matters.

Udall also cited the Government Accountability Office’s finding in April that Pruitt’s purchase of a $43,000 private office booth for telephone calls broke federal law because the EPA failed to notify Congress in advance of an expenditure over $5,000.

Udall accused Pruitt of continuing to flout legal requirements to inform lawmakers about that and other big-ticket spending, and “treating your position of public trust as a golden ticket for extravagant travel and fine dining.”

Pruitt had some success batting away ethics questions lobbed by Democrats when he appeared before two House panels last month, but on Wednesday the senators hammered …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

      

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