Prominent conservative helped plan, joined in Pruitt trip to Rome: report

Prominent conservative helped plan, joined in Pruitt trip to Rome: report
© Greg Nash

The head of a prominent conservative judicial group helped organize some of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittMeet 3 women who stood up to Trump to protect the American people — and lost their jobs Overnight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Dems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing MORE’s trip to Italy last year, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Leonard Leo, a friend of Pruitt’s and the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, joined Pruitt for a private Mass at the Vatican as part of the trip last July.

He also attended a dinner with Pruitt and his top aides at a high-end restaurant in Rome, which cost several hundred dollars for each person, one EPA official told the newspaper.

And Leo, an observant Catholic, also went to the Vatican and the restaurant in Pruitt’s motorcade, despite EPA aides objecting to the move.

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“[Leo] was driving most of the schedule,” one former EPA official told the Times.

A former EPA official also told the Times that Leo had a privileged status at the agency, saying that if he called Pruitt’s office “and asked for something, we did it, it doesn’t matter what it was."

Government ethics officials told the newspaper that Pruitt’s official calendar should have included details about Leo’s involvement in the trip, but that the document does not.

The Times also confirmed earlier reporting by The Washington Post that a lobbyist helped organize a trip Pruitt made to Morocco last year, and also tagged along on the visit.

Richard Smotkin, who retroactively registered last month to represent the government of Morocco, is also a longtime friend of Pruitt’s.

Pruitt is facing a mounting number of ethics investigations into his behavior.

The EPA's office of the inspector general said last week that it was investigating Pruitt for his rental of a $50-a-night condo co-owned by the wife of a then-energy lobbyist, in addition to the existing probe into his use of a taxpayer-funded security detail at the Rose Bowl and Disneyland.

Pruitt is also facing probes into his use of taxpayer dollars for first-class travel. The head of his security detail, who had said the first-class travel was necessary for Pruitt's safety, resigned Tuesday.

The EPA head faced lawmakers during a hearing last week, during which he didn't deny that he knew about raises given to two top longtime aides despite the White House having rejected the pay increases.