Archives investigation finds no ‘secret' Pruitt calendars existed

A government investigation has absolved former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA halts surprise inspections of power, chemical plants| EPA allows continued use of pesticide linked with brain damage| New York awards country's largest offshore wind energy contracts EPA allows continued use of pesticide linked with brain damage Overnight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade MORE of claims that he and his staff tampered with his calendar and kept a secret version hidden from the public.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) found that the claims, originally made in a CNN article from July 2, were “unsubstantiated.”

In a letter written Jan. 31 and posted on the Archives website, Chief Records Officer Laurence Brewer wrote that during the review, "no information was identified indicating that any calendars other than the Outlook and public calendars ever existed.”

He concluded: “Based on this information, NARA considers this allegation of unauthorized disposition to be unsubstantiated.”

CNN published an article in July that reported Pruitt’s meetings and appointments were often altered or deleted from his official calendar. The article claimed that the secret calendars were kept in order to “overtly hide controversial meetings or calls with industry representatives and others, according to a former EPA official who is expected to soon testify before Congress.”

The story from CNN pointed to various instances where the public calendar provided by the EPA did not match internal documents obtained. Citing a CNN review, the publication said it found "more than two dozen meetings, events or calls" that were omitted from the public calendar.

One particular omission includes a dinner Pruitt had in June 2017 with Cardinal George Pell during a trip to the Vatican. The meeting was first reported by the New York Times. The dinner with Pell, who was then under investigation for sexual assault, did not appear on Pruitt's official calendar, according to the CNN review.

Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt's former deputy chief of staff for operations and EPA whistleblower, told CNN staffers routinely met to "scrub" Pruitt's calendar.

CNN's report pointed to reporting by The New York Times that Pruitt in June 2017 dined with Cardinal George Pell during a trip to the Vatican. The dinner with Pell, who was then under investigation for sexual assault, did not appear on Pruitt's official calendar, according to CNN.

The publication’s reporting was largely pointed to as one of last straws that ultimately lead to Pruitt’s ousting just two days after it was published.

NARA originally asked EPA to investigate the claims on July 10. According to NARA’s findings, the EPA provided information showing there was “no evidence” that staff deleted Pruitt’s meetings from his official Microsoft Outlook calendar.

Staffers did concede that information about Pruitt's meetings were often tweaked after the fact to clearly identify whether the events occurred and who ultimately attended.

The EPA also said the calendars Pruitt posted online were “simplified” versions of those kept internally.

However, the agency said it responded to all Freedom of Information Act requests for Pruitt’s calendars with the internal, detailed version, according to NARA.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.