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Alleged document destruction sparks investigation at the EPA

Was the EPA's chief of staff involved in destroying politically sensitive documents?
The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stands in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)
The headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stands in Washington, D.C.

Almost immediately after Donald Trump was inaugurated, the "Inhofe Brigade" became an influential center of power in the new administration. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), one of the nation's preeminent climate deniers, saw a sizable contingent of former aides make the transition from his office to the new Republican president's team -- most notably at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The "brigade" was led in large part by Ryan Jackson, the far-right senator's former chief of staff, who became then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's chief of staff and proceeded to bring his former colleagues in Inhofe's office into the administration.

Pruitt's tenure proved to be a fiasco -- corruption allegations forced his resignation in July 2018 -- but Jackson remained at the EPA, where he's now reportedly facing an investigation worth watching. Politico reported late last week:

The Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general is investigating whether chief of staff Ryan Jackson was involved in destroying internal documents that should have been retained, according to two people familiar with the matter.The IG's office is asking witnesses whether Jackson has routinely destroyed politically sensitive documents, including schedules and letters from people like lobbyist Richard Smotkin, who helped arrange a trip for then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to Morocco when he was in office, according to one of the sources, a former administration official who told investigators he has seen Jackson do that firsthand.

It's worth noting for context that one of the many controversies that dogged Pruitt during his tenure was the allegation that he maintained a secret calendar that hid events that might make him look bad. That matter was reviewed by the National Archives, which pointed to no evidence of wrongdoing.

A Trump-appointed EPA spokesperson disputed the allegations, and Politico heard from some of Jackson's colleagues who "reached out unprompted" to say they hadn't seen Jackson destroy documents.

These officials wouldn't give their names for the record.