Gage Skidmore / Flickr Scott Pruitt...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Just as Donald Trump has been waving around the statement of Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee as “proof” that he was in the clear on Russia, Scott Pruitt had a go-to “nothing to see here” pass from the EPA’s top ethics official.

EPA on Friday evening released a memo from Kevin Minoli, a career official who serves as EPA’s top ethics expert, clearing Pruitt’s lease of any ethical concerns.

Minoli wrote that the lease was a “reasonable market value,” and said it authorized Pruitt’s immediate family to stay there was well, which they did on unspecified occasions.

Except that Minoli was told that Pruitt was renting a single room, with no use of the rest of the townhouse. Which turns out to be … a lie. Pruitt had the run of the place, including a bedroom for his daughter and use of the entire townhouse to host GOP fundraisers. How does what he paid really compare to “market rates?”

Here is a map of AirBnB rates in the same neighborhood as the lobbyist’s townhouse. Similar units cost up to $5,000 a month. Pruitt paid $6,100 for his entire six month stay.

And now it seems that the ethics official who gave Pruitt a waiver is having second thoughts.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s top ethics watchdog clarified his earlier analysis of whether Administrator Scott Pruitt’s rental arrangement broke the federal gift rule, saying he didn’t have all the facts when evaluating the lease, according to a memo provided to CNN. …

And that’s not the only part of Pruitt’s lies and excuses that are burning. Even doing an interview on Fox News couldn’t cover up just how much, and how badly, Pruitt has lied about his actions.

On Tuesday, Pruitt came under fresh fire when The Atlantic reported that he had gone to extraordinary lengths to get a raise for two his favorite aides—including one who helped him locate a cheap place to stay in Washington.

Pruitt asked that Greenwalt’s salary be raised from $107,435 to $164,200; Hupp’s, from $86,460 to $114,590. Because both women were political appointees, he needed the White House to sign-off on their new pay. …

After the White House rejected their request, Pruitt’s team studied the particulars of the Safe Drinking Water provision, according to the source with direct knowledge of these events. By reappointing Greenwalt and Hupp under this authority, they learned, Pruitt could exercise total control over their contracts and grant the raises on his own.

Pruitt ordered it done. Though Hupp and Greenwalt’s duties did not change, the agency began processing them for raises of $28,130 and $56,765, respectively, compared with their 2017 salaries. Less than two weeks after Pruitt had approached the White House, according to time-stamped Human Resources documents shared with The Atlantic, the paperwork was finished.

On Wednesday, Pruitt retreated to the friendly confines of Fox News, where he could be praised for his attempts to “implement Trump’s agenda” i.e. destroy the regulation of water, land and air. But even his Fox host had a hard time supporting Pruitt in his adoption of the Sgt. Schultz defense.

HENRY: If you’re committed to the Trump agenda, why did you go around the president and the White House to give pay raises to two staffers –

PRUITT: I did not. My staff did, and I found out about that yesterday and I changed it.

HENRY: So –

PRUITT: PPPO process should have been respected, and I issued a statement yesterday walking back those pay raises that should have not been –

HENRY: So, was anyone fired for that?

PRUITT: … should not have been done. It made –

HENRY: Who did it?

PRUITT: There … there will be some accountability.

HENRY: Career person or political person?

PRUITT: I have to … I don’t know. I don’t know.

HENRY: You don’t know? You don’t know who did this?

PRUITT: I found out about this yesterday. And I corrected the action. We are in the process of finding out how it took place and –

HENRY: So hang on. Both of these staffers who got these large pay raises are friends of yours. I believe from Oklahoma, correct?

PRUITT: They are staffers here in the agency.

HENRY: And they’re friends of yours.

PRUITT; Well … well, they serve a very important person –

HENRY: And you didn’t know that they got these large pay raises?

PRUITT: I did not know that they got the pay raises until yesterday.

It goes on from there. At a bare minimum, Pruitt comes off as an idiot who doesn’t know what’s going on in his own department. But even a casual observer—even a Fox News watcher—certainly got the message that Pruitt was simply lying. The only question now is whether Pruitt will be allowed to throw staffers on the fire and shout “Deep State!” or whether he’ll be forced to own up to actions that could have only come from his office.

Meanwhile, one other factor that didn’t get any initial scrutiny on the condo front.

Before Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt rented a room from a top DC energy lobbyist, that lobbyist and his wife funded Pruitt’s efforts to climb the political ladder in his home state of Oklahoma.

Campaign finance records in the state show that Steven and Vicki Hart, the power couple who last year rented Pruitt a room in their Capitol Hill home for $50 per night, began donating to Pruitt’s campaigns for Oklahoma attorney general in 2010. Steven Hart even hosted a fundraiser for Pruitt’s reelection effort.

So Pruitt could essentially pay the token amount he was giving for their condo … with their own money.

Pruitt is in serious trouble. And though he probably wishes he could get away on a nice $120,000 taypayer funded vacation to Rome, it’s time to keep the pressure on.

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