Former EPA aide shared 'valuable' Pruitt information with House Republicans

- April 13, 2018

A former EPA staff member who provided Democratic lawmakers with detailed accusations against Administrator Scott Pruitt has also shared "a lot of valuable information" with Republican staff on the House Oversight Committee, a committee spokeswoman said Friday.

The development is a further sign of the deepening bipartisan scrutiny facing President Donald Trump’s environmental chief, whose critics accuse him of excessive spending on travel, vehicles, raises and luxe security features such as a $43,000 soundproof phone booth.

The agency former employee, former Trump campaign aide Kevin Chmielewski, met with the House committee for several hours Thursday and is being treated as a whistleblower, spokeswoman Amanda Gonzalez told POLITICO. She said the information he provided is consistent with allegations laid out in a letter released Thursday by House and Senate Democrats who had also spoken to Chmielewski.

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is committed to seeing the investigation through wherever it leads, Gonzalez said.

The Democratic letter issued Thursday outlined a series of alleged spending abuses by Pruitt, including accusations that he disregarded price limits on hotel stays and office decor, made an EPA employee look for housing for him, lied about raises granted to two top aides, and directed staff to find excuses for him to travel so he could return home to Oklahoma on weekends. Chmielewski also told the Democrats that the agency dismissed him after he refused to retroactively approve a first-class plane ticket for a close aide to Pruitt, the lawmakers wrote.

EPA's inspector general is also investigating complaints about Pruitt's travel spending and other practices. The inspector general's office said it will release an interim report Monday afternoon on one of its probes, which involves whether Pruitt misused special hiring authority provided by the Safe Drinking Water Act to bring some key aides into the agency.

It's unclear whether the IG has expanded that probe to include a recent controversy around EPA's use of the same water law to grant raises to two Pruitt aides despite the White House's disapproval. Pruitt told Fox News last week that he did not know about those raises until after they were issued.

Alex Guillén contributed to this report.


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