Pruitt didn’t pay aide for apartment hunt

Pruitt didn’t pay aide for apartment hunt
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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittGovernment watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas MORE didn’t pay a close aide to search for apartments for him, which one senator said is illegal.

Millan Hupp, a top scheduling aide to Pruitt, searched for apartments for Pruitt, an arrangement first reported by The Washington Post last month.

At a Senate Appropriations Committee subpanel hearing Wednesday, Pruitt said that Hupp’s apartment-hunting work didn’t happen during the hours she was working at the EPA, diffusing a potential issue over outside work during government time.

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“All activity that I’m aware of that was engaged in by the individual that you’re speaking about occurred in personal time,” Pruitt told Sen. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh Trump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Senate Dems want DOJ review of Giuliani's work for foreign entities MORE (N.M.), the subpanel’s top Democrat.

But Pruitt potentially opened up another can of worms by saying that he did not personally pay Hupp for her apartment hunting.

“No, I did not,” Pruitt said.

Udall pointed to regulations that prohibit federal employees from doing unpaid voluntary work for their superiors.

“Then that’s a gift,” Udall said of Hupp’s work. “That’s in a violation of federal law.”

Hupp worked for Pruitt when he was attorney general of Oklahoma, and Pruitt brought her to Washington, D.C., along with a handful of other aides who now work for him.

Hupp initially attracted attention when the EPA gave her a raise of more than 30 percent. The White House rejected Pruitt’s request for the raise, as well as one for another political aide from his Oklahoma work, so the EPA found a way to go around the White House and institute the raises nonetheless.

Pruitt told lawmakers last month that while he knew about the raises, he didn’t know his chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, would do it without White House approval.

Pruitt told Udall Wednesday that Hupp’s raise had nothing to do with her closeness with him.

“The individual that you’re referring to is a longtime friend of my wife and myself,” he said.

“To link any type of review on a pay increase in just simply not substantiated. It’s just not related at all.”