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EPA's Pruitt faces questions after taxpayer-funded trips home

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.

The Trump administration has already found itself at the center of all kinds of controversies, but other than the president himself, arguably no one on Team Trump has run into more trouble than Scott Pruitt, the far-right Republican in charge of the EPA.

Despite only being on the job for six months, the Oklahoman has drawn fire recently for ignoring his own scientists on public use of a controversial pesticide, and misleading the public about coal-industry jobs. Before that, we learned Pruitt used private email to conduct official business, though he gave sworn congressional testimony in which he said the opposite.

Pruitt is also accused of illegally hiding correspondence that documented his cooperation with the oil and gas industries during his tenure as Oklahoma’s attorney general. As if this weren’t enough, there’s also evidence pointing to Pruitt’s role in a botched execution.

The Oklahoman reported late yesterday on Pruitt's latest problem.

The Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general will investigate Administrator Scott Pruitt's recent taxpayer-funded travels to Oklahoma."This assignment is being initiated based on congressional requests and a hotline complaint, all of which expressed concerns about Administrator Pruitt's travel -- primarily his frequent travel to and from his home state of Oklahoma at taxpayer expense," the inspector general's office wrote in a letter to Pruitt and other EPA leaders Monday.

The details are difficult to explain away. The Environmental Integrity Project, a group of former EPA officials, has alleged that from March to May, Pruitt didn't just spend 43 out of 92 days away from his office, he also traveled at taxpayer expense to his home state of Oklahoma.

Sure, any EPA administrator is going to do some traveling as part of his or her duties, and if there was some kind of environmental crisis in the spring that required Pruitt's immediate attention, this would be easier to understand.

But when an EPA chief, over the course of three months, spends nearly half of his time in his home state for no apparent reason, it's hardly unreasonable to think the EPA's inspector general should take a closer look.

Complicating matters, as The Oklahoman article added, there are widespread rumors that Pruitt is planning to pursue statewide office in his home state, either running for governor in 2018 or the Senate in 2020. Pruitt has denied the chatter, but it's against this backdrop that some of his critics want to know if Americans are subsidizing his travel from D.C. to Oklahoma as part of his political ambitions.