An ethics official at the Environmental Protection Agency who signed off on Administrator Scott Pruitt’s $50-per-night condo lease said he only approved the contract based on federal gift rules and did not consider other issues that the housing arrangement may have presented.
Kevin Minoli, an ethics official with the EPA, maintained in a memo released on Wednesday that Pruitt’s living arrangements — a Capitol Hill condo owned by a prominent lobbyist for which Pruitt paid $50 per night — were within the bounds of rules regarding gifts based on the rental rates of other nearby units.
Minoli, in the memo, stressed that there was some information that he did not have access to.
"Some have raised questions whether the actual use of the space was consistent with the terms of the lease. Evaluating those questions would have required factual information that was not before us and the Review does not address those questions," he wrote.
But Minoli also said he had not considered Pruitt’s housing situation in the context of a federal impartiality rule, which the Office of Government Ethics says “requires an employee to consider appearance concerns before participating in a particular matter if someone close to the employee is involved as a party to that matter.”
“Today’s memorandum shares the factual analysis done by the career ethics officials and how that analysis supports the conclusion reached in the March 30th Memorandum that the lease did not constitute a prohibited gift,” Minoli said in a statement. “In Reaffirming the original decision, the Memorandum also responds to the misunderstanding or mischaracterization of the March 30 memo by explaining what the conclusion covers and what was beyond its scope.”
Pruitt has been the source of intense speculation in recent days amid reports that he could be the next to be swept up in a recent wave of departures from President Donald Trump’s administration. While Pruitt is considered by multiple people close to the president as being among the most effective administration officials in terms of policy making, he has also created a slew of negative headlines, including his condo arrangement but also his travel expenses and high security costs.
Emily Holden contributed to this story.