Energy & Environment

Ex-aide: Officials intentionally kept Pruitt meeting with accused Cardinal off his schedule

A former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official claims that top aides to Administrator Scott Pruitt intentionally left the presence of an Australian cardinal under investigation for sexual abuse off official descriptions of a dinner Pruitt attended for fear it would reflect poorly on the EPA chief.

Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt's former deputy chief of staff, said in an interview with The New York Times published Friday that the decision to omit the cardinal's presence from official EPA schedules for the day was a "no-brainer."

The Times first reported this week the presence of the Vatican official, Cardinal George Pell, at the dinner, which took place at a five-star restaurant in June in Rome.

Pell has been under investigation for multiple allegations of child sex assault since 2016, and had been the subject of news reports in the months since the allegations surfaced.

Just 20 days after his dinner with Pruitt, Pell was arrested by Australian authorities.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox addressed the dinner in a statement earlier Friday, calling it was incorrect to assert that Pruitt or top aides had knowledge of the allegations against Pell, and stressing that the meeting was not "one-on-one" between Pell and Pruitt.

"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," 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."

Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, told the Times that Pell's name was omitted from the schedules by mistake, and that neither he nor Pruitt were aware of the allegations.

"The only ever conversation that happened was, 'Hey, these schedules change so quickly that we need to be really diligent about keeping the records of what actually happened,' " Jackson said.

Outbrain