Pruitt spent $45K flying aides to Australia to prep for later-canceled visit: report

Pruitt spent $45K flying aides to Australia to prep for later-canceled visit: report
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Two aides and three security agents working for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants | Regulators decline to ban pesticide linked to brain damage | NY awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts EPA allows continued use of pesticide linked with brain damage Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade MORE took a $45,000 trip to Australia for the purpose of setting up meetings for Pruitt that never actually occurred, Reuters reports.

The five-person "advance" team was in Australia and New Zealand in order to set up a meeting with Australia's Parliament, where Pruitt was expected to meet with Australian officials to discuss environmental policy.


Pruitt's trip was canceled, however, due to the landfall of Hurricane Harvey last year, and a new meeting has not been scheduled. An EPA spokesman told Reuters that rescheduling the trip had been stymied by Australia's parliamentary schedule.

“This is not news,” Jahan Wilcox said, adding that the advance team was “adhering to the federal government’s travel policy.”

"We have been unable to find a time to reschedule this meeting as it must be done when they are in session," he added, referring to Australia's government.

The officials were away for just a few days and traveling business class in this case was not a violation of federal rules, as government policy allows officials to fly business class for trips 14 hours or longer.

Each business class ticket cost roughly $9,000, according to Reuters. Economy tickets at the same time last year cost about $1,400, the agency reported.

Ethics groups say that Pruitt's past behavior, including a plan to approve raises for aides after they were rejected for pay increases by the White House and his steep spending on security, raises questions as to whether the trip to Australia was for legitimate purposes.

“If he had a reputation for playing it by the book in every other instance, then you might not be concerned,” Larry Noble, senior director and general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told Reuters.

“But when you see somebody who ... seems to not be that concerned about the way he spends the money, then you question whether this was justified.”

Pruitt's future in the Trump administration has recently been thrown into question by a series of damaging news reports. Last month, it was reported that Pruitt lived for months in a condo owned in part by the wife of a top energy lobbyist with business before the EPA, which critics said was a clear ethical violation.

He is also being investigated for a soundproof "privacy booth" that cost roughly $43,000.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE, however, has indicated his support for the embattled EPA administrator and dismissed reports of his spending habits as fake news.