Lawmakers call for criminal investigation into EPA chief

Lawmakers call for criminal investigation into EPA chief
© Greg Nash

A group of Democratic lawmakers are seeking a criminal investigation of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittPruitt made one phone call to White House using K soundproof booth Walmart becomes latest retailer to ban chemicals found in paint strippers Juan Williams: Trump weaves web of corruption MORE following a slew of reports that Pruitt may have used his position to benefit himself and his family.

Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyTrump, Obamas and Clintons among leaders mourning Aretha Franklin The Hill's Morning Report — Trump optimistic about GOP’s midterm prospects as Republicans fret Overnight Energy: New EPA chief faces test before Congress | Trump officials tout progress on air quality | Dem bill would force watchdog to keep investigating Pruitt MORE (D-Va.), Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinDems seek probe into EPA head’s meetings with former clients Hillicon Valley: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | Sparks fly at hearing on social media | First House Republican backs net neutrality bill | Meet the DNC's cyber guru | Sinclair defiant after merger setback Sparks fly at hearing on anti-conservative bias in tech MORE (D-Md.), Rubin Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalRecord numbers of women nominated for governor, Congress Liberal Dems lay groundwork to push 'Medicare for all' Dems seek probe into EPA head’s meetings with former clients MORE (D-Wash.) jointly requested FBI Director Christopher Wrey and acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan open an investigation into Pruitt in a letter sent Friday, highlighting their grave concerns with the EPA head.

"EPA Administrator Pruitt has used his public office and official, taxpayer-funded resources for the personal gain of himself and his family, in violation of federal law," the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

Their request follows reporting this week that Pruitt had his executive scheduler request a meeting with top leadership at fast food company Chick-fil-A with the purpose of securing a job for his wife, Marlyn Pruitt.

Pruitt and his scheduler's requests in the early days of his tenure were documented in internal EPA emails released this month in troves of emails to the Sierra Club through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Administrator Pruitt directly, and admittedly, used EPA resources to attempt to secure a job for his wife," the letter to the FBI director read. 

"At the very least, we know that federal ethics laws bar public officials from using their position or staff for private gain. Administrator Pruitt has certainly done just that."

Pruitt didn't defend the meeting he set up with Chick-fil-A and appeared to admit to its purpose in an interview he gave with a Nextstar reporter Wednesday.

"Look, my wife is an entrepreneur herself, I love, she loves, we love Chick-fil-A as a, as a franchise of faith," Pruitt said in the interview. "And it's one of the best in the country, and so, that's something we're very excited about. … So, and we need more of them in Tulsa and we need more of them across the country."

In an email to Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A chairman and president, Pruitt's scheduler asked if he would meet with Pruitt to discuss “a potential business opportunity.”

According to the Post, Pruitt himself later spoke on the phone with someone from the company's legal department to ask about the possibility of his wife becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee.

A company representative confirmed the conversation to the Post.

The lawmakers say the arrangement that Pruitt sought is potentially illegal and politically corrupt, as he used his position of authority as EPA head to seek financial benefits for his spouse.

The news comes as Pruitt is embroiled in a number of other scandals related to his ethics and use of taxpayer money, including his rental of a $50-a-night condo from the wife of a prominent energy lobbyist who has lobbied the EPA on behalf of clients.

The lawmakers allege the actions show Pruitt crossing an ethical and potentially criminal line.

"His actions related to his wife’s employment and the quid-pro-quo condo situation with industry lobbyists may have crossed a line into criminal conduct punishable by fines or even by time in prison," they wrote.