Lawmakers call for criminal investigation into EPA chief

Lawmakers call for criminal investigation into EPA chief
© Greg Nash

A group of Democratic lawmakers are seeking a criminal investigation of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA bans use of pesticide linked to developmental problems in children Science matters: Thankfully, EPA leadership once again agrees Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE following a slew of reports that Pruitt may have used his position to benefit himself and his family.

Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHow lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation Overnight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling Connolly rips Wilson over 'you lie' during Blinken hearing MORE (D-Va.), Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinGOP seeks to keep spotlight on Afghanistan as Dems advance Biden's .5T spending plan Raskin writing memoir about Jan. 6, son's suicide House Democrats demand details after Border Patrol agents accused of profiling Latinos in Michigan MORE (D-Md.), Rubin Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalBiden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan On The Money — Democrats rush to finish off infrastructure Biden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions MORE (D-Wash.) jointly requested FBI Director Christopher Wrey and acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan open an investigation into Pruitt in a letter sent Friday, highlighting their grave concerns with the EPA head.

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"EPA Administrator Pruitt has used his public office and official, taxpayer-funded resources for the personal gain of himself and his family, in violation of federal law," the lawmakers wrote in their letter.

Their request follows reporting this week that Pruitt had his executive scheduler request a meeting with top leadership at fast food company Chick-fil-A with the purpose of securing a job for his wife, Marlyn Pruitt.

Pruitt and his scheduler's requests in the early days of his tenure were documented in internal EPA emails released this month in troves of emails to the Sierra Club through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Administrator Pruitt directly, and admittedly, used EPA resources to attempt to secure a job for his wife," the letter to the FBI director read. 

"At the very least, we know that federal ethics laws bar public officials from using their position or staff for private gain. Administrator Pruitt has certainly done just that."

Pruitt didn't defend the meeting he set up with Chick-fil-A and appeared to admit to its purpose in an interview he gave with a Nextstar reporter Wednesday.

"Look, my wife is an entrepreneur herself, I love, she loves, we love Chick-fil-A as a, as a franchise of faith," Pruitt said in the interview. "And it's one of the best in the country, and so, that's something we're very excited about. … So, and we need more of them in Tulsa and we need more of them across the country."

In an email to Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A chairman and president, Pruitt's scheduler asked if he would meet with Pruitt to discuss “a potential business opportunity.”

According to the Post, Pruitt himself later spoke on the phone with someone from the company's legal department to ask about the possibility of his wife becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee.

A company representative confirmed the conversation to the Post.

The lawmakers say the arrangement that Pruitt sought is potentially illegal and politically corrupt, as he used his position of authority as EPA head to seek financial benefits for his spouse.

The news comes as Pruitt is embroiled in a number of other scandals related to his ethics and use of taxpayer money, including his rental of a $50-a-night condo from the wife of a prominent energy lobbyist who has lobbied the EPA on behalf of clients.

The lawmakers allege the actions show Pruitt crossing an ethical and potentially criminal line.

"His actions related to his wife’s employment and the quid-pro-quo condo situation with industry lobbyists may have crossed a line into criminal conduct punishable by fines or even by time in prison," they wrote.