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Adelson helped arrange canceled Pruitt trip to Israel: report

Adelson helped arrange canceled Pruitt trip to Israel: report
© Greg Nash

Casino magnate and GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson was among a group of well-connected friends and political allies who helped arrange foreign trips for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump administration doubles down on climate skepticism | Suspended EPA health official hits back | Military bases could host coal, gas exports Suspended EPA health official: Administration’s actions mean ‘kids are disposable’ Overnight Energy: Interior reprimands more than 1,500 for misconduct | EPA removes 22 Superfund sites from list | DOJ nominee on environment nears confirmation MORE, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Adelson reportedly helped set up meetings for Pruitt’s planned trip to Israel in February. However, the trip was ultimately canceled after news broke that Pruitt had racked up thousands of dollars in travel costs during his tenure leading the EPA.

Adelson, a staunch supporter of Israel, had in part arranged for Pruitt to stop at the West Bank, visit Tel Aviv University and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Post reported.

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Pruitt was also reportedly slated to meet with an Israeli company that Adelson has vouched for.

Adelson’s top political adviser downplayed the interactions with Pruitt, telling the Post that “many people” consult the casino magnate before traveling to Israel.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the newspaper that agency officials “organized and led the effort around Administrator Pruitt’s” trip to Israel and other countries.

News that Adelson played a role in Pruitt’s planned trip to Israel comes days after it was reported that a prominent lobbyist helped set up meetings between the EPA administrator and Moroccan government officials for a trip in December.

Richard Smotkin, who registered retroactively last month to represent the government of Morocco, reportedly went with Pruitt in December to visit the country. 

Pruitt held meetings with government officials and attended social events during the four-day trip, which cost more than $100,000, the Post reported Wednesday.

The EPA said in a statement obtained by The Hill that Smotkin “did not attend or participate in any official meetings with the Moroccan government.”

Reports that donors or lobbyists may have helped arrange Pruitt's travel comes as the EPA head faces a slew of other ethics controversies.

Democratic lawmakers, and some Republicans, grilled Pruitt during House committee hearings last week over reports he rented a Capitol Hill condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist for $50 each day he stayed there. They also asked questions over raises given to staff members and reports that Pruitt has racked up millions in security and travel expenses.

Pruitt largely explained that those controversies were matters handled by his staff or distractions from his administration's efforts to carry out President TrumpDonald John TrumpKey takeaways from the Arizona Senate debate Major Hollywood talent firm considering rejecting Saudi investment money: report Mattis says he thought 'nothing at all' about Trump saying he may leave administration MORE's agenda.

Trump and some Republicans have defended Pruitt, praising him for cutting regulations at the EPA.