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EPA Chief Faces Scrutiny on Capitol Hill

EPA Chief Faces Scrutiny on Capitol Hill

The hearings will pose a critical test for Pruitt as the White House becomes increasingly frustrated by news reports on issues ranging from his heavy spending on first-class air travel and security, to his rental of a room in a Washington townhouse linked to an energy industry lobbyist. "I have nothing to hide". I'd guess that Trump's leaning hard on letting Pruitt take a beating for a while to see if the news media and Democrats get exhausted out. But he mostly expressed defiance.

"Facts are facts and fiction is fiction", the embattled agency chief told a House of Representatives panel in the first of two hearings at which he was due to appear.

"I think your actions are an embarrassment to President Trump and distract from the EPA's ability to carry out the president's mission, and if I were the president, I wouldn't want your help. I'm simply not going to let that happen". And The Associated Press reported in mid-April that Pruitt would fly in coach when he had to foot the bill.

"I'm concerned that the progress being made on the policy front is being undercut by allegations about your management of the agency and use of its resources", said Republican Rep. Greg Walden. "These issues are too persistent to ignore".

Welch questioned Pruitt about the secure phone booth he had built in his office at a cost of $43,000 according to reports, and biometric locks he had installed on his doors.

When asked about Pruitt opting out of a briefing by aides familiar with the committee's concerns, Cole said it was Pruitt's judgment to make.

After the hearing, Welch said he felt Pruitt had been "somewhat skillful as an evader", and had failed to address concerns about misuse of taxpayer money.

President Donald Trump is standing by his EPA chief.

Asked Thursday whether he had received any other gifts from lobbyists seeking favors from EPA, Pruitt replied, "I'm not aware of any instances".

Republican Rep. John Shimkus of IL, chairman of the panel questioning Pruitt, called the allegations a "distraction but one this committee can not ignore". Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., pointed to an email from one of the two aides in which she wrote that Pruitt specifically authorized the salary hike.

He accused Pruitt of a "propensity for grift".

Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey said Pruitt has brought "secrecy" and "scandal" to the EPA, suggesting that in any other administration, Republican or Democrat, Pruitt would have been "long gone" by now as administrator.

Republicans on the committee proceeded cautiously. And Pruitt has launched an all-out effort to overturn those rules. "And that is what is happening to you".

An administration official confirmed that Pruitt declined an offer of White House assistance in preparing for the latest congressional hearings.

There are almost a dozen pending investigations into Pruitt with the EPA inspector general, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the White House Office of Management and Budget, as well as the U.S. House of Representatives oversight committee.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said Pruitt's behavior has hurt President Trump's credibility and the Republican Party.

Still, anticipating questions from Democrats, Cole said one could "expect a pretty highly charged hearing".

Even Pruitt's mentor, Sen.

Pruitt denied the claims, saying, "There's no truth to the assertion that positions have been reassigned".

Pruitt has also been under fire after receiving a far-below-market lease for a Washington apartment that was owned by an energy lobbyist.

Former staffers have stepped forward to accuse Pruitt of various abuses of power, including requesting sirens and lights to get to a dinner, having the government pay for bulletproof tires on his SUV, and ginning up official events to justify luxury travel around the world and to his home in Oklahoma.

Pruitt's double header before two House subcommittees Thursday was not without fireworks.

"I recently made changes to that because I felt like from an optics and perception standpoint, it was creating a distraction and I thought best to go in another direction".

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