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27 April 2018, 11:20 | Katrina Lee
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt
Numerous reports are "half truths" and "twisted stories" and are coming from sources who "want to derail the president's agenda", he added. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Pruitt said the booth "has not been certified as a SCIF, and it does provide protection on confidential communications".
Pallone also said he was confident that further investigations into the reports of lavish trips and pricey office purchases will "affirm what I've come to believe is true: that you are unfit to hold public office and undeserving of the public trust".
Republican Rep. John Shimkus of IL, chairman of the panel questioning Pruitt, called the allegations a "distraction but one this committee can not ignore".
Pruitt's popular with Republicans for his aggressive drive to dismantle regulations, but his outlandish personal behavior has attracted notice across party lines. "I'm simply not going to allow that to happen".
"If you can't debate the policies in Washington, you attack the personality".
After a string of stinging revelations detailing excessive expenditures on security, travel and raises for staff, Pruitt can expect to be grilled and called to answer for his decisions.
Pruitt dodged the question: "I've responded to many of those questions here today with facts and information".
Pruitt has always been considered a foe of environmental activists.
Documents later showed EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson signed off on the raises and indicated he had Pruitt's consent.
Pruitt said Thursday he delegated authority to Jackson to give the raises but didn't know the exact amounts.
Sarah Greenwalt, Pruitt's 30-year-old senior counsel, received a raise of over $66,000, bringing her salary to $164,200.
Pruitt said that he wanted to address the "very troubling media reports over the last few weeks", saying that he was "not afraid to admit that there's been a learning process" for him as EPA administrator. In addition to questions of spending and ethics, Mr. Pallone is expected to push Mr. Pruitt on his many moves to roll back the Obama administration's climate change policies.
"I have nothing to hide", Pruitt said in his opening remarks at a packed morning hearing by the House Committee on Energy and the subcommittee on the environment.
Instead, members of the House of Representatives demanded answers from Pruitt over hisfirst-class travel, his raises given to staffers, the below-market condo he rented from a lobbyist, and the news that staffers who protested him were reassigned. Perrotta, who advocated for the administrator flying first-class as a security precaution, enlisted a business associate to conduct a security sweep of Pruitt's office and endorsed other privacy measures, had planned to step down this summer. Coal executive Bob Murray, whose company Murray Energy donated more than $1 million to Trump-linked outside spending groups previous year, dismissed criticism of Pruitt as "much ado about nothing" in an interview with TIME earlier this month.
"Obviously, Scott Pruitt has got some serious questions to answer", said Thune, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate. However, Pruitt maintained that he was "not aware" of the amounts, or that he was bypassing certain procedures. "She is a friend".
Even some supporters in Congress are growing impatient, with GOP lawmakers demanding greater accountability and telling Pruitt allies to stand down from praising him.
A lawyer and former Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt is known to prepare meticulously for congressional hearings, with his office schedule showing he often blocks off hours huddled with top political aides.
Republican leaders and administration officials have expressed concerns about how hard it would be to go through another confirmation process with a new nominee should Pruitt resign. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. It is expected that the chairman of the full House energy committee, Greg Walden of OR, and the ranking Democrat, Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, will attend the morning hearing. "They're just that, they're allegations, and I think we need to hear what he has to say, and I think there will be good explanations".
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