White House investigating Pruitt spending

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2018

The White House revealed yesterday it’s investigating EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s $43,000 privacy booth, even as the agency pushed back on what it called “inaccurate” stories.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee today he is probing whether the EPA chief violated the 2017 omnibus spending bill, as well as a separate whistleblower complaint on spending at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We will investigate them. We take the Antideficiency Act very, very seriously. If they’ve been broken, we’ll follow the rules, we’ll enforce the law,” Mulvaney said. “I’m not interested in covering for anybody else.”

Mulvaney later added, “I’m not any happier about it than you are.”

The Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney said, is beginning a review of a Government Accountability Office report that found EPA violated federal law by failing to tell lawmakers when it installed a secure phone booth in Pruitt’s office (Greenwire, April 16).

The congressional watchdog concluded that EPA breached appropriations law — specifically the governmentwide $5,000 spending cap on office redecoration for political appointees — by not giving advance notice to Congress’ appropriations committees.

GAO also found that since EPA spent its appropriated funds in a way banned by the law, it also broke the Antideficiency Act and needs to report its violation to Congress and the president.

Mulvaney’s comments came as EPA pushed back on “inaccurate reports” about the agency’s purchase of bulletproof tires and bullet-resistant seat covers.

Jahan Wilcox, an EPA spokesman, sent a copy of a federal purchase order to the media, saying the document revealed there was no purchase of bulletproof tires or bullet-resistant covers. The email also linked to reports in major newspapers, including a story in The Washington Postthat Pruitt had “upgraded his official car last year to a costlier, larger vehicle with bullet-resistant covers over bucket seats.”

Wilcox said EPA’s protective service detail placed bulletproof vests over each seat in response to an individual trying to assassinate numerous congressional Republicans while they practiced for a charity baseball game.

“We would like to put this rumor to rest,” Wilcox said. “EPA has no bulletproof vehicles, tires or seat covers, the agency has no contracts for any bulletproof vehicles, tires or seat covers, and the Agency never sought any contracts for bulletproof vehicles, tires or seat covers.”

Amid the ongoing stream of negative stories surrounding the administrator’s spending, calls are growing on the left for Pruitt to step down. More than 170 Democrats in both chambers of Congress — led by Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida — today introduced a resolution calling for Pruitt to immediately resign.

“This historic resolution sends an unequivocal message to the administration: the American public has lost faith in Scott Pruitt, and it’s time for him to go,” Udall said in a statement.