A damaging internal email showed that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt encouraged his motorcade to use flashing lights and sirens to move him quickly through Washington D.C.’s heavy traffic.
Pruitt’s motorcade used its sirens to move him quickly when he was running late, such as when he had dinner plans at Le Diplomate, an expensive French restaurant, according to reports.
The EPA chief was on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to testify before a Senate subcommittee on agency’s budget but he ended up facing some of his toughest questions and criticism to date, particularly from Democrats who were given free reign to repeatedly ask Pruitt about the multiple scandals surrounding his tenure at the EPA.
Protestors at a Senate hearing Wednesday morning called on EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to be fired over the multiple scandals at his agency.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt faced multiple questions and criticisms during a Senate hearing about the scandals surrounding his time at the environmental agency.
Pruitt is facing dozens of investigations about his time in office, ranging from the cost of his security detail, thousands of dollars spent on first-class travel, the pay raises given to aides, the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office, and the cheap rent of a condo he received that is tied to lobbyists.
Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat who has called on Pruitt to resign, asked him about reports he liked his motorcade to use the vehicles’ flashing lights and sirens to cut through traffic.
“There are policies in place regarding the use of lights” and those were followed, Pruitt said.
But Udall asked him repeatedly if he encouraged the action.
“I don’t recall that happening,” Pruitt said.
Udall then disclosed an internal email from then-EPA special agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta indicating Pruitt wanted the sirens used.
An internal email from then-EPA special agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta indicating EPA administrator Scott Pruitt wanted his motorcade to use flashing lights and sirens.
The email, sent in February 2017 shortly after Pruitt was confirmed, had the subject line “Lights and Sirens.” It added “Btw – Administrator encourages the use.” Perrotta also wrote the agency’s justification for Pruitt’s first-class travel. He later resigned.
Additionally, a U.S. senator blasted Pruitt for flying first-class because of security reasons, saying no one ‘knows who you are.’
Pruitt’s team claimed the administrator needed heavy security protection because of death threats.
But Patrick Leahy, also a Democrat, blasted the agency chief for claiming he needed first class travel for security reasons, saying it was ‘silly.’
“What a silly reason you had to fly first class,” Leahy said. “Nobody even knows who you are.”
Udall also told Pruitt: “Your tenure at the EPA is a betrayal of the American people. You have used your office to enrich yourself at the expense of the American people.”
The EPA administrator used a defense he has used in other appearances before lawmakers. He blamed staff and processes for allowing some of incidents to take place.
“I would not make the same decisions again,” he said.
“But some of the areas of criticism are, frankly, areas of the agency where processes were not properly in place to prevent certain abuses from happen,” he said, specifically referring to the phone booth installation.
He also touted all the regulations his agency has dismantled.
Pruitt also revealed under questioning that he has set up a legal defense fund.
“It’s been set up,” he said when a Democratic senator asked about its existence.
President Donald Trump supports his agency chief but several members of Congress do not.
Last month a group of 131 representatives and 39 senators signed a resolution calling on Pruitt to resign.
President Donald Trump supports his appointee to the EPA but Sen. Patrick Leahy blasted Scott Pruitt for traveling first class for security reasons, saying ‘nobody even knows who you are.’
Pruitt was also asked about a report an aide helped Pruitt find a new place to live.
He called the aide “a longtime friend” who used her ‘personal time’ to help him. He noted he did not pay her for this service.
“Then that’s a gift, that’s a violation of federal law,” Sen. Tom Udall said, noting that subordinates of federal officials are prohibited from providing free services.