Pruitt's Soundproof Phone Booth Broke Laws, Watchdog Says

Trey Gowdy Scott Pruitt should fly like a ‘monk’ instead of first class

The EPA broke the law when it failed to tell lawmakers on House and Senate spending committees that it was allocating more than $43,000 to install a soundproof phone booth in Administrator Scott Pruitt's office a year ago, according to a congressional watchdog agency.

The Government Accountability Office said the EPA violated the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, which prohibits an agency from obligating more than $5,000 in federal funds to furnish, redecorate or make improvements in the office of a presidential appointee without first notifying appropriations committees in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The committee asked for documents about Pruitt's security detail and its lead member, Pasquale Perrotta. He also signed off on the administrator flying in first-class seats during official trips, a perk Pruitt says was justified by security concerns after unpleasant interactions with other passengers.

The committee also is asking to meet with Chmielewski and Perrotta; Ryan Jackson, Pruitt's chief of staff; Millan Hupp, an aide; and Sarah Greenwalt, senior counsel to Pruitt.

Gowdy gave an April 27 deadline for response from EPA.

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Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., sent the letter a day after lawmakers detailed allegations by the EPA's former deputy chief of staff for operations, Kevin Chmielewski, who told congressional staff about wasteful spending, unethical behavior and retribution at the agency for staffers who questioned the activity.

Jahan Wilcox, EPA spokesman, said the agency had "responded to Chairman Gowdy's inquiries and we will continue to work with him".

Pruitt's continued leadership of the environmental agency has been under fire since the revelation two weeks ago that he lived in a bargain-priced Capitol Hill condo tied to a fossil fuels lobbyist.

Michael Biesecker is an Associated Press writer.

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