Pruitt hires outside attorney as investigations mount: report

Pruitt hires outside attorney as investigations mount: report
© Greg Nash

Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittZinke left some details off public calendar: report EPA watchdog faults ‘management weaknesses’ in Flint water crisis House completes first half of 2019 spending bills MORE has reportedly hired an outside defense attorney after a string of federal investigations into controversies related to his ethics and spending as head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Pruitt recently hired white-collar defense lawyer Paul Rauser to advise him as he and the agency deal with 12 separate investigations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the EPA inspector general's office, according to Politico.

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Rauser, co-founder of the firm Aegis Law Group, has reportedly been advising Pruitt for weeks now as the EPA chief faces scrutiny over his rental of a $50-a-night condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist, the construction of a $43,000 soundproof booth found to be in violation of congressional laws and major raises given to close aides.

According to a description on his website, Rauser's practice focuses on high-stakes commercial litigation, internal investigations and white-collar criminal defense. The website lists his clientele as those operating in "heightened-risk environments" including those facing charges of securities fraud, financial crimes and foreign corrupt practices.

He's previously worked on both formal and informal investigations conducted by both houses of Congress as well as numerous regulatory and investigative agencies. 

The Hill has reached out to both Rauser and the EPA for confirmation.

Pruitt faced a number of questions over his growing scandals Tuesday when testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the EPA's budget. During the hearing Pruitt confirmed that he had established a legal defense fund to help him with legal costs.

The fund will let friends, allies, lobbyists and others donate to help defray any legal costs Pruitt might incur from the numerous investigations currently surrounding him.

Lobbyists and corporations with business before the EPA will not be allowed to donate, Pruitt said.

“I don’t accept donations. I don’t solicit donations. That’s done by attorneys and others,” he said.

Senators focused largely on Pruitt's use of 24/7 security from the first day he took office, which has cost taxpayers millions this year, as well as his use of staffers' time — including one close aide who helped Pruitt search for an apartment without getting paid for it.

The EPA head additionally faced questions about a meeting he took with a law firm that employs right-leading radio host Hugh Hewitt. Internal emails surfaced earlier in the month showed that Hewitt personally reached out to the EPA office to set up the meeting between his office, which represents the Orange County Water District, and Pruitt. Weeks after the meeting the EPA placed a contaminated site located in Orange County on its Superfund priorities list.

Ranking member Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallEPA deputy says he's not interested in Pruitt’s job Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Overnight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release MORE (D-N.M.) said of the deal: "It looks a little bit fishy to me."