Pruitt had travel wish list and asked staff to find ‘official’ reasons to go: report

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittPruitt’s new problem with the GOP: Ethanol Harvard scientists: Trump environmental policies could result in 80,000 more deaths per decade Overnight Energy: New controversies cap rough week for Pruitt | Trump 'not happy about certain things' with Pruitt | EPA backtracks on suspending pesticide rule MORE, when he joined the EPA, drew up a list of his preferred travel destinations and told his staff to find official reasons for him to travel to those countries, according to The Washington Post.

Four EPA officials familiar with Pruitt's travel arrangements tell the newspaper that Pruitt created the list shortly after taking office last year and directed aides to plan visits to countries on the list while finding official EPA business to rationalize the travel.

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In some cases, those trips were planned for months with the help of influential Washington, D.C., lobbyists, the Post reports, raising further questions about Pruitt's use of taxpayer funds and proximity to lobbyists who may have business before the agency.

In the case of one canceled trip to Israel, the trip was reportedly organized by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Two Democratic senators sent a letter on Thursday to Pruitt demanding information about “the role Mr. Adelson or other non-governmental officials played" in planning that trip, the Post said.

Pruitt would later meet with executives from an Israel-based water purification company in Washington, a meeting that occurred “as a request of Sheldon Adelson," according to an official note in Pruitt's calendar.

Another incident in Morocco also showed Pruitt's tendency to let high-profile friends in on EPA business. A trip to Morocco, planned by longtime Pruitt friend and lobbyist Richard Smotkin, resulted in Smotkin joining Pruitt for "multiple" events, including a meeting with one of Morocco's business leaders.

Smotkin would later go on to sign a lobbying agreement with Morocco's government. Critics point to this as blatant evidence of Pruitt using his office to promote his friends' business interests.

“This is the problem with Pruitt,” Virginia Canter of the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told the Post. “He’s basically acting as a lobbyist for all of his friends.”

Pruitt has weathered a number of stories revolving around his ethical conduct in the past few months, including revelations that he approved raises for top aides while circumventing the White House and accepted a living arrangement in Washington from the wife of a top energy lobbyist.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-ethics chief calls on Trump to end 'monstrous' migrant policies Laura Bush blasts Trump migrant policy as 'cruel' and 'immoral' US denies report of coalition airstrike on Syria MORE, however, has maintained public support for Pruitt.