Dems want probe into aide who shopped for Pruitt’s apartment

Dems want probe into aide who shopped for Pruitt’s apartment
© Greg Nash

Three Democratic senators want an investigation into whether Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Rate of new endangered species listings falls | EPA approves use of 'cyanide bombs' to protect livestock | Watchdog says EPA didn't conduct required analyses EPA didn't conduct required analyses of truck engine rule: internal watchdog Is Big Oil feeling the heat? MORE broke the law when he had a close aide shop for apartments for him.

The demand for a probe comes after Pruitt told a Senate hearing this month that Millan Hupp, his scheduler, conducted the apartment hunt during non-work hours, but Pruitt did not pay her.

Sens. Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Defense: House passes compromise defense bill | Turkey sanctions advance in Senate over Trump objections | Top general says military won't be 'raping, burning and pillaging' after Trump pardons Senate panel advances Turkey sanctions bill despite Trump objections Overnight Defense: Bombshell report reveals officials misled public over progress in Afghanistan | Amazon accuses Trump of 'improper pressure' in Pentagon contract decision | House Judiciary holds final impeachment hearing MORE (D-N.M.), Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats rip Barr over IG statement: 'Mouthpiece' for Trump Trump brings pardoned soldiers on stage at Florida fundraiser: report Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill MORE (D-R.I.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperLobbying World Overnight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder MORE (D-Del.) argue in a letter Thursday to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins that Hupp’s apartment hunt may constitute an illegal gift to Pruitt.

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“There are several regulations designed to prevent the misuse of taxpayer funds and to prevent a supervisor from misusing the time of or accepting an improper gift from a subordinate employee, whose salary is paid by American taxpayers,” the senators wrote.

They also suspected that Hupp used some work hours for the apartment search, which would also violate regulations.

Tia Elbaum, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Inspector General, said the office had received the letter and would review it.

Hupp’s apartment hunting work is one piece of a deluge of scandals surrounding Pruitt in recent months regarding ethics, spending and other matters.

The Washington Post reported last month that Hupp contacted a real estate firm and a landlord last year to arrange visits to properties for rent in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Hupp has been at the center of another Pruitt controversy. The EPA gave her a raise of about a third, to $114,590, earlier this year using a special authority after the White House rejected Pruitt’s request for a raise.

Pruitt has maintained that he knew about the raise and one to another close aide but did not know that his Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson would go around the White House to do it. He reversed both raises.

Elkins’s office is also looking into the the issue of the raises.

Hupp worked for Pruitt when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general and was among a group of aides he brought to Washington.

Pruitt told senators that Hupp was a close friend to him and his wife and her raise had nothing to do with the apartment hunt.

“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 is just simply not substantiated. It’s just not related at all.”