Ex-Bush ethics lawyer confronts Hugh Hewitt over Pruitt ethics: ‘This is corruption’

Richard Painter and Hugh Hewitt had a lively exchange Monday over Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule Restoring the EPA: Lessons from the past MORE's $50-per-night fee for a room in a Capitol Hill condo.

Hewitt, the conservative pundit, argued Pruitt's deal to rent the room did not constitute a gift because the EPA's principal deputy general counsel Kevin Minoli had signed off on the arrangement.

The condo building is owned in part by the wife of a lobbyist for Williams & Jensen, the Washington lobbying firm. 


"Mr. Minoli reviewed the lease and upheld it," Hewitt said. "It is not, in any way shape or form a gift, this is much ado about nothing."

Painter disagreed, saying he would have shot the deal down when he worked as an ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration.

"Find me a hotel room in Washington, D.C. for $50 a night and tell me that's not a gift from a lobbyist," said Painter, who frequently appears on television to criticize members of the Trump administration. "This is disgusting and no decent ethics lawyer would sign off on that. If that had happened in the Bush administration, I would have shut it down in a minute."

"Fifty dollars a night to get a room in Washington, D.C.," he continued. "You know — we all know that is a violation of the gift rules, and no ethics lawyer could cover that up. It's just flat-out wrong."

"Well, Mr. Painter, I would say that I don't know Mr. Minoli and I don't know you, but I wouldn't slander a career professional who has been there for 18 years," Hewitt retorted, before being talked over by Painter.

"I will. No career professional would ever sign off on that," Painter shot back.

"He did, so you're manifestly wrong," Hewitt said, laughing.

The Trump administration is reportedly opening a new investigation into the deal despite a statement Friday from Minoli clearing Pruitt of wrongdoing, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Pruitt has faced calls to resign from Democrats in Congress and other critics, including an apparent attack from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a top Trump ally, who said of Pruitt "I don’t know how you survive this one" in a statement to ABC News.