GOP chairman demands interviews with top Pruitt aides

GOP chairman demands interviews with top Pruitt aides
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House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyDem lawmaker calls on House to subpoena American translator from Trump-Putin meeting The Hill's Morning Report — Trump isolated and denounced after Putin meeting Ryan: 'The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally' MORE (R-S.C.) is demanding interviews with five top aides to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Watchdog opens investigation into Interior chief | Judge halts Pruitt truck pollution rule decision | Winners, losers in EPA, Interior spending bill amendments Sanders endures press grilling over Russia Court blocks EPA policy against enforcing truck pollution rule MORE.

Gowdy made the request in a letter Friday, citing “new information” the committee says it has obtained regarding Pruitt’s official travel and his rental agreement last year with the wife of an energy lobbyist.

Gowdy is also seeking troves of documents from Pruitt, including those related to his official, taxpayer-funded trips to Italy and Morocco last year; the EPA’s decision to give him a 24/7 security detail; his hiring of a private security firm in Italy for his trip there; and the official travel of Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, the head of his security detail.

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The demands are the latest escalation in Gowdy’s investigations of Pruitt, stemming from both recent and ongoing scandals regarding the EPA administrator's spending of taxpayer money and alleged ethics violations.

Gowdy has previously asked for documents about Pruitt's frequent first-class flying and his apartment lease, and had to ask earlier this week for more documents on the flying that the EPA had not provided.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said Friday that “we have responded to Chairman Gowdy’s inquiries and we will continue to work with him.”

The “new information” may refer to an interview the committee’s staff had Thursday with Kevin Chmielewski, formerly Pruitt’s deputy chief of staff for operations.

A committee spokeswoman said Chmielewski largely backed up what congressional Democrats said he told them earlier in the week, including corroborating recent media reports about his lavish spending and retaliation against employees who questioned his actions, and making some new allegations.

Chmielewski alleged, in part, that he was removed from his job for pushing back on Pruitt’s extensive security demands, and Gowdy’s committee is treating him as a whistleblower.

In addition, both Politico and The New York Times reported Thursday that Perrotta has been behind much of the security spending escalation by Pruitt, including new SUVs to transport him, bulletproof vests, a bulletproof desk and hiring the Italian security firm.

Gowdy asked the EPA in Friday’s letter to schedule transcribed interviews within the next two weeks with Chmielewski, Perrotta, chief of staff Ryan Jackson, scheduling and advance director Millan Hupp and senior counsel Sarah Greenwalt.

Hupp and Greenwalt both received significant raises last month after the White House refused to allow the raises.

Jackson said he was responsible for the raises, while Pruitt said he wasn’t aware of them and said he moved to reverse them after The Atlantic reported on the raises.

But Chmielewski and The Atlantic both said he knew about and approved of the raises.

The EPA's Office of Inspector General said Friday that it will release an interim report Monday on the method the EPA used to give Hupp and Greenwalt their raises, but it was not clear if those specific raises would be included in the findings.