Pruitt Attacks 'Half Truths' And 'Twisted' Stories During Energy Hearing

'I have nothing to hide' Pruitt tells Congress as he faces ethics controversies
Scott Pruitt Testimony: US lawmakers assail EPA chief over ethical missteps

27 April, 2018

"Facts are facts and fiction is fiction", the embattled agency chief told a House of Representatives panel in the first of two hearings at which he appeared. Pruitt carefully toed the line, saying he was not aware of the amounts of the raises or about the process used to approve the raises.

Pruitt's ability to provide yes and no answers to questions was not limited to ethics violations allegations.

Pruitt dodged the question: "I've responded to many of those questions here today with facts and information".

But while he will be answering questions from two separate House committees, the person whose opinion will matter most is President Donald Trump.

After what happened to Ronny Jackson this week and the need to fill the VA slot again, Trump might be even more inclined to let Pruitt alone.

Republicans in Congress and the administration say privately that the confirmation of the second ranking official at the EPA, Andrew Wheeler, earlier this month has relieved some pressure to defend Pruitt.

"Facts are facts and fiction is fiction, and a lie does not become true just because it appears on the front page of the newspaper", Pruitt told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday. Almost all Republicans have stopped short of calling for his resignation, however. "I'm doing this as an elected official", said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

"Like, Ryan Zinke's doors?" "It may look bad, but it's not illegal", Barton said. "I asked you if you're going to reimburse the taxpayers for the overage. what are you going to do about it?"

Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., also pressed Pruitt about the alleged retaliation. The points Eshoo raises are certainly legitimate, but Pruitt gets to have his say, too ... at least if the goal of the hearing is edification.

"Well then, I'm concerned that you have no idea what is going on in your name at your agency", Tonko said.

Lawmakers also brought up other ethics concerns - namely perceived conflicts of interest, lack of transparency surrounding his daily schedule, the shift in focus away from science at the agency and a controversial rental agreement.

But he never reached out to Walden's and Calvert's Democratic counterparts, Reps. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, asked. The prep sessions, which started Friday, have included policy briefings from each of the agency's program offices. Democrats pounced on the scandal allegations to the point where discussions of EPA policy evaporated entirely.

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Pruitt pushed back against some specific reports.

"Changes have already begun occurring, and I have been flying coach", it reads.

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. "Instead, you've blamed your staff, your security detail, your critics - pretty much anyone but yourself". The Senate recently confirmed Andrew Wheeler, a coal lobbyist, as deputy administrator of the EPA. He now will leave sooner, the official said. Pruitt defended the actions he's taken thus far, claiming that the EPA under his leadership has been axing "burdensome costs" from the economy at an "unprecedented pace".

The Washington Post's Dino Grandoni, David Weigel, Mike DeBonis, Aaron C. Davis and Erica Werner contributed to this report.

Those travel expenses include between $2,000 and $2,600 on first class flights to Oklahoma, where he is from.

Rep. Derek Kilmer invited Pruitt to visit Native American tribes in his home district in Washington state, where fisheries are under threat.

- A four-day trip to Morocco last December.

"I would like to know how you can have confidence in somebody like this in being the EPA Administrator", Rep.

- An April 2017 meeting with the National Mining Association's executive committee on the Paris climate accord that may have violated anti-lobbying laws.

Pruitt's been criticized for renting a Capitol Hill condo that was tied to a prominent fossil-fuels lobbyist for $50 per night.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office - Congress' watchdog agency - concluded the EPA broke the spending laws when it failed to tell lawmakers that it was allocating more than $43,000 to install the soundproof phone booth in Pruitt's office past year. In the afternoon hearing, Pruitt said he was unaware of the "amount" of the raises.

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