The House’s top watchdog is requesting Kevin Chmielewski, the former Trump EPA appointee who clashed with Administrator Scott Pruitt, to sit for an interview with his staff.
House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) sent a letter yesterday to Chmielewski asking that he make himself available for a transcribed interview no later than June 22.
Chmielewski was a former EPA deputy chief of staff for operations who has made allegations to lawmakers and reporters about Pruitt’s spending on costly travel and security. Chmielewski, who also worked on President Trump’s 2016 campaign, left the agency earlier this year.
In his letter, Gowdy noted that his staff has conducted transcribed interviews with other EPA officials as part of the committee’s investigation into Pruitt’s tenure at the agency.
"During the course of this fact finding, the Committee has taken testimony relating to many of the allegations you related. There remain numerous questions of fact concerning these matters," Gowdy said.
"To examine these facts, and particularly to reconcile what has amounted to differing accounts, we must take your testimony," the lawmaker said.
Oversight panel staff have already interviewed several close aides to Pruitt, including senior adviser Sarah Greenwalt, scheduling director Millan Hupp and Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, the career EPA special agent who led Pruitt’s security detail. All three have left the agency as Pruitt has fallen under heavy scrutiny for various ethics controversies (Greenwire, June 1).
Chmielewski spoke informally to committee staff this past April about his concerns about Pruitt’s tenure. Gowdy soon wrote a letter to EPA requesting several batches of documents related to Pruitt’s travel and security, touching upon Chmielewski’s allegations (E&E News Daily, April 16).
Chmielewski, reached by phone this morning, said he hadn’t yet received the letter from Gowdy. "Another media outlet has actually called and sent it to me," the former staffer said.
Chmielewski said he would "love to" sit for the interview with the committee and that he’s already spoken to them numerous times. "I have nothing to hide," he said.
But Chmielewski currently lives in Ocean City, Md., and has been urged to bring a lawyer with him when giving testimony to Congress.
"I can’t afford to bring a lawyer, and I’m obviously out every day looking for a job," he said, adding he didn’t think he could meet Gowdy’s June 22 deadline for an interview with his staff.
"I’m definitely not going to be able to make that happen," he said.
Pruitt has been swamped in recent months with various controversies over alleged misuse of his office and excessive spending on travel and security. The EPA chief has set up a legal defense fund as he grapples with multiple investigations by the EPA inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and others.
Chmielewski said of Pruitt, "I don’t know how he’s still there. … It’s truthfully embarrassing."