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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 PruittMcConnell and wife confronted by customers at restaurant EPA puts science ‘transparency’ rule on back burner Tucker Carlson says he 'can't really' dine out anymore because people keep yelling at him 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 ConnollyDems zero in on Trump’s alleged conflicts of interest Trump more involved in blocking FBI HQ sale than initially thought: Dems Dems damp down hopes for climate change agenda MORE (D-Va.), Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinNellie Ohr exercises spousal privilege in meeting with House panels GOP leaders hesitant to challenge Trump on Saudi Arabia Clinical trials are a lifeline for women with gynecologic cancers MORE (D-Md.), Rubin Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalElection Countdown: Midterm fight heats up over Kavanaugh | McConnell sees energized base | Dems look to women to retake House | How suburban voters could decide control of Congress | Taylor Swift backs Tennessee Dems | Poll shows Cruz up 5 in Texas Dems look to women to take back the House after Kavanaugh fight Wrong for Democrats to call for more Kavanaugh investigations 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.