Top Gov’t Ethics Official Calls Out Questionable Moves By EPA Chief Pruitt

President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden, Wednesday, June 1, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Andrew Harnik/AP

In a letter to the EPA’s designated ethics official Friday, the acting director of the Office of Government Ethics said several of EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s actions “raise concerns” and may have violated President Donald Trump’s ethics pledge for administration officials.

The New York Times first reported the letter — from the acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, David J. Apol, to the EPA’s designated ethics official, Kevin Minoli — on Monday.

Apol played the hits, starting with Scott Pruitt’s below-market-rate lease of a townhouse from a powerhouse lobbying couple, one of whose clients had business before the EPA.

The OGE official noted that Pruitt “apparently did not seek ethics advice prior to entering into the lease” and, “only after” reporting by ABC News and Bloomberg exposed the deal, provided the EPA’s ethics advisers “with limited information” about the arrangement.

Apol also mentioned reports on Pruitt’s use of an EPA staffer’s time to help him find an apartment and his frequent taxpayer-funded flights home to Oklahoma for questionable purposes; that is, for boosting Pruitt’s profile before a potential campaign for elected office.

The letter ended by mentioning the New York Times’ recent report that Pruitt demoted or reassigned high-ranking EPA officials who questioned certain of his leadership and spending decisions — like his desire to use sirens and flashing lights to allow his motorcade to slice through Washington, D.C. traffic.

“If true,” Apol wrote, “it is hard to imagine any action that could more effectively undermine an agency’s integrity than punishing or marginalizing employees who strive to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that safeguard that integrity.”

The Times noted that OGE does not have power over Pruitt, but that the office could appeal to President Trump to impose some sort of discipline on the Cabinet secretary.

A few minutes after the New York Times’ Eric Lipton published his story, the Office of Government Ethics posted a link to the letter:

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