Lobbyist played key role in setting up Pruitt's planned trip to Australia: report

Lobbyist played key role in setting up Pruitt's planned trip to Australia: report
© Greg Nash

A former lobbyist who spent decades as an international political consultant was a central part of organizing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump directs agencies to cut advisory boards by 'at least' one-third Trump directs agencies to cut advisory boards by 'at least' one-third Overnight Energy: Former EPA chiefs say Trump has abandoned agency's mission | Trump in Iowa touts ethanol and knocks Biden | Greens sue Trump over drilling safety rollbacks | FDA downplays worries over 'forever chemicals' MORE's planned trip to Australia last year.

Matthew Freedman, the chief executive of consulting firm Global Impact Inc., actively worked with EPA employees and another lobbyist, Richard Smotkin, to organize a trip Pruitt was planning to take last year to Australia, according to records obtained by the Sierra Club under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

The records were first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday.

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The trip was scheduled for the end of the summer but was cancelled following Hurricane Harvey.

The internal EPA records show that Freedman communicated directly last June with one of Pruitt's top political aides, Millan Hupp. The back and forth showed that Freedman recommended a number of meetings Pruitt could take while in Australia and that he was in communication with top government officials there for Pruitt's trip.

“I’ve been in direct contact with the Minister in Aus, and we will be speaking with his senior staffer (Cosi) who is the lead from their side on Monday night,” Freedman, who also once worked for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manfort, wrote to Hupp in one exchange. “Also, Jim Carouso, the Charge at the US Emb in Canberra is a close personal friend and would likely have good inputs, but I want to wait a bit before i contact him.”

One of the topics that Freedman suggested Pruitt could discuss while on the trip was “the current US Australian environmental agreements that are currently in place and whether they should be changed or updated or canceled or replaced," according to an email to Hupp.

Freedman is an active consultant in Australia, serving as treasurer of the American Australian Council, a group that promotes the business interests of U.S. companies operating in Australia. Their list of clients in Chevron and ConocoPhillips, the Times reported.

Pruitt is already facing scrutiny over a trip he took to Morocco in December that Smotkin helped organize and also attended. Pruitt met with foreign dignitaries on that trip, The Washington Post first reported Tuesday. Four months after the trip, Smotkin signed a $40,000-a-month contract to represent an arm of the Moroccan government.

In the emails revealed on Wednesday, Freedman explicitly detailed that he did not want his involvement made public, saying of himself and Smotkin: "Rick and I will be present but not listed as members of the delegation."