Scott Pruitt Just Testified Before Congress. It Didn't Go Well

Scott Pruitt Just Testified Before Congress. It Didn't Go Well

An internal watchdog at the Environmental Protection Agency says Administrator Scott Pruitt demanded and received unprecedented, around-the-clock protection on his first day.

"So I share your concerns about some of these decisions".

"There have been some decisions over the last 16 or so months that, as I look back on those decisions, I wouldn't make the same decisions again", he said, marking the closest the EPA administrator has come to acknowledging missteps during his tenure with the agency. "I also want to highlight for you that some of the criticism is unfounded and I think is exaggerated and I think it feeds this division that we've seen around very important issues affecting the environment".

The EPA administrator said he had worked with the White House Office of Legal Counsel and the Government Accountability Office to establish the fund, would follow their guidance and would publish information about donations.

Pruitt brushed aside allegations he improperly requested the use of emergency lights and sirens while being driven through Washington in a government vehicle.

Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) pressed Pruitt another of his more controversial expenditures: a round-the clock security detail his predecessors did not have. "Instead of seeing articles about efforts to return your agency to its core mission, I'm reading articles about your interactions with the industries that you regulate".

"The agency should not have done that", Pruitt said, though he declined to apologize for the tweet when Udall asked him to do so. Pruitt is now the subject of at least 14 federal investigations and numerous prominent Democrats, and a few Republicans, have called for his resignation.

But Pruitt said he didn't recall making the request and insisted that to the best of his knowledge policies governing the use of lights were followed.

"Then that's a gift", Udall said.

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In a February 2017 email released Wednesday by Democratic Sens. Perrotta has since resigned.

Pruitt was also criticized for a tweet on April 13 by the EPA's official account that cheered Senate approval of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler as deputy administrator of the EPA and stated that "the Democrats couldn't block the confirmation".

Udall, describing Pruitt's management of the agency as "disastrous", again called on Pruitt to resign.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), the panel's top Republican, noted the numerous allegations surrounding Pruitt at the outset of the hearing. "I'm being asked, really constantly asked, to comment on security, on housing and on travel", she said.

"You have used your office to enrich yourself at the expense of the American taxpayer and public health and such abuses have led to several investigations", Udall said.

For his part, Pruitt took the same approach as he did in a pair of contentious House hearings last month, largely steering clear in his opening statement of addressing the dozen probes he is facing on topics such as the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office, a cut-rate condo rental from a lobbyist a year ago and his domestic and global travel expenses.

"It's my understanding that all activity there was on personal time", Pruitt said, adding that there was no connection to any pay increase and stressing that the aide is a family friend.

Pruitt said the agency made a mistake. In addition to flying first class due to alleged safety concerns, Pruitt has historically allowed lobbyists to help arrange his trips.

President Donald Trump expressed his confidence in Pruitt as recently as last week at a meeting with automakers, where Pruitt sat one seat away from Trump.