EPA: Pruitt's meeting with cardinal charged with sexual assault was not a 'one-on-one' dinner

EPA: Pruitt's meeting with cardinal charged with sexual assault was not a 'one-on-one' dinner
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is defending against allegations that 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 dined privately with a cardinal accused of sexual assault during his visit to the Vatican last summer.

A spokesman for the agency denied that Pruitt met one-on-one with Cardinal George Pell during his trip to Italy and the Vatican in June, saying that Pruitt dined with a group of 12 to 15 individuals and had no prior knowledge of Pell attending. He added that Pruitt was not aware of the allegations against Pell.

"There was not a private one-on-one dinner with Cardinal Pell, as certain media outlets have portrayed. He was one of 12 to 15 individuals who attended the dinner and EPA had no knowledge that he was coming to the dinner," EPA's Jahan Wilcox said in a statement. "It is incorrect to report that any knowledge of the allegations against Cardinal Pell were raised to Administrator Pruitt’s level."

New York Times reporter Eric Lipton on Thursday tweeted documents, first obtained by the Sierra Club through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, that showed a working timeline before and during Pruitt's trip. Those documents linked Pruitt to Pell and allege that EPA officials were aware of the allegations made against the Cardinal.


Lipton tweeted, "Agency staff had vetted the schedule--before the trip--and learned that Cardinal Pell was under investigation."

One of the documents posted in the Twitter thread is Pruitt's schedule which highlights two dinner plans, one at 7:30 labeled "Dinner with Card. Pell and others." The dinner is labeled with a "TBD" and mentions that it will be his 76th birthday the following day.

An internal email obtained by the Times also showed an email sent from former EPA political aide Samantha Dravis to the secretary to the cardinal during the dinner saying, "I am at dinner with Cardinal Pell and Mr. Pruitt."

In March 2017, an Australian magistrate ordered that Pell, an Australian citizen, stand trial on sexual abuse charges involving allegations from multiple individuals dating back decades. He was not formally charged until late June. 

Wilcox pointed out that that it's "important to note" that Pell was not charged until June 29, 2017, nearly three weeks after the dinner he had with Pruitt.