On Monday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency accusing its embattled administrator Scott Pruitt of manipulating the Freedom of Information Act process to keep the American people in the dark about his many scandals from the past year and a half.
Cummings says Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff blew the whistle to Congress in April that Pruitt has been demanding that every FOIA request related to the Obama administration be processed before anything was released about his own time in office — a claim corroborated by interviews with two other Pruitt staffers.
“The orders you apparently gave to delay producing documents relating to your tenure appear to directly contradict EPA’s own FOIA regulations, as well as guidance issued by the Department of Justice,” Cummings wrote, pointing to laws that mandate that simple FOIA requests to be processed sooner than complex ones, regardless of the time period they cover.
“Under your tenure,” he added, “EPA’s front office is now responding more slowly, withholding more information, and rejecting more requests, according to EPA’s own data and independent sources. Combined with your refusal to produce documents requested by Congress, your actions in delaying records under FOIA raise concerns about a fundamental lack of transparency at EPA.”
Over the past few weeks, a torrent of stories have leaked out of the EPA about Pruitt’s behavior in office, from his lavish spending on pens to his attempts to use his official position to help his wife score a Chick-fil-A franchise to his orders that aides spend their work hours finding him a condo, a Trump mattress and luxury lotion. Reports have emerged that Pruitt has pushed out staffers who have attempted to rein in his inappropriate spending.
In his new letter Cummings suggested that Pruitt’s FOIA policy may be concealing more instances of such retaliation.
“Your actions are particularly troubling in light of multiple reports that you have retaliated against EPA staff who disclose waste, fraud, and abuse,” he wrote.
Read Cummings’ full letter below: