IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Apparent falsehoods compound problems for EPA's Pruitt

At face value, the principal problem for Scott Pruitt is that he's facing allegations of brazen corruption. His apparent lies, however, make matters worse.
In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP)
In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla.

At face value, the principal problem for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is that he's facing allegations of brazen corruption, misusing public funds, and abusing the powers of his office. So far, Donald Trump has decided he doesn't much care about any of those controversies.

But complicating matters is the fact that the Oklahoma Republican apparently hasn't been truthful in his responses to some of the allegations.

For example, Pruitt is the beneficiary of a large security contingent, which provides around-the-clock protection for the EPA chief, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Pruitt and his allies have defended the measures, citing threats. That defense appears to be unraveling.

Two Senate Democrats say they have documents that show there have been no security threats against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that would justify the abnormally large security detail and first class air travel he has spent millions of taxpayers dollars on, according to a letter obtained by NBC News.The letter, written by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Tom Carper of Delaware, was sent to Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. In it, the senators say they have obtained "non-public documents" that include assessments from the Secret Service that "identify no 'reports of behaviors of interest' against Administrator Pruitt."

EPA officials have reportedly begun looking through Twitter, trying to find threatening tweets that would justify Pruitt's "extraordinary and costly security measures." (Politico reported yesterday, "EPA removed a career staffer Tuesday who approved an internal report that undermined ... Pruitt's claims that he needed around-the-clock bodyguards and other expensive security protection, according to two former agency employees familiar with the situation.")

Making matters slightly worse, the EPA chief told Fox News last week he had no idea about the lucrative raises two of his top aides received at the agency. The Atlantic, however, this week highlighted an email that suggests Pruitt "personally signed off" on the decision.

Referencing an investigation from the EPA's inspector general's office, the article added that some in the agency were amazed when they saw Pruitt lie on national television.

"My jaw dropped when he said that," said the first administration official. The perception that Pruitt had gone on TV and lied, the official said, was what really scared people inside the agency.After the interview, top aides, including [Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson], began corralling files that appeared to contradict Pruitt's statements. The two administration officials described it as a way of "getting ahead" of the IG's investigation. [The email from Sarah Greenwalt, senior counsel to the administrator], however, has proved the most troubling, according to both administration officials. "It's an 'oh, s**t' moment that they're trying to figure out before the IG finds the email," said one. "Because it'll be damn near impossible to have Sarah explain her way out of it."

Vox's Umair Irfan pulled together a variety of other Pruitt falsehoods, including his apparent lies about the room he rented from lobbyists with business before the EPA -- which, incidentally, he also lied about.

What more would this guy have to do to get fired?