Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) yesterday mocked EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for flying first class because of security concerns, suggesting Pruitt join the monastery to avoid his critics.
On "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman said he has not been impressed with reports of Pruitt's excessive spending requests and pricey travel, nor with EPA's justification for those expenses.
Gowdy said he was "concerned about both what you cited and the explanation for it and whether or not it is credible," and then took umbrage with Pruitt's penchant for premium travel.
"Look, if you sit first class, you're guaranteed to come in contact with everybody else on the plane. If you really want to avoid people on the plane, sit in the last seat, not the first seat. I'd be shocked if that many people knew who Scott Pruitt was," Gowdy said.
"So the notion that I've got to fly first class because I don't want people to be mean to me, you need to go into another line of work if you don't want people to be mean to you," Gowdy said. "Like maybe a monk, where you don't come in contact with anyone."
Gowdy's jibe at Pruitt comes as he is expanding his investigation into ethics allegations swirling around Pruitt.
The Oversight and Government Reform chairman sent a new letter Friday to the EPA chief saying the panel "recently became aware of new information" regarding Pruitt's travel and his condo lease linked to a lobbyist whose firm's clients have business interests before EPA.
Gowdy then asked for seven sets of documents, including travel records for Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, the head of Pruitt's personal security detail; records related to Pruitt's June 2017 trip to Italy, including the hiring of a private Italian security firm; records related to Pruitt's December 2017 trip to Morocco; and documents to help identify the EPA official who determined that Pruitt's around-the-clock security protection was warranted.
Gowdy also requested that EPA schedule with his committee staff transcribed interviews with five of Pruitt's top aides: Perrotta, chief of staff Ryan Jackson, former deputy chief of staff for operations Kevin Chmielewski, Senior Counsel Sarah Greenwalt, and Director of Scheduling and Advance Millan Hupp.
Greenwalt and Hupp have come under scrutiny after it was reported that the two Pruitt aides had received substantial pay raises under the Safe Drinking Water Act's unique hiring authority. EPA has said those two pay raises have now been reversed.
Perrotta has also attracted attention due to Pruitt's extensive security measures and an associate of his securing an EPA contract to sweep the administrator's office for surveillance bugs.
The letter came a day after Republican committee staff spoke with Chmielewski, a Trump political appointee on the outs with EPA leadership who has alleged that Pruitt has made excessive spending requests and misused his Cabinet-level position.
Gowdy has already sent other letters to EPA asking for information, including one last week requesting documents related to Pruitt's lease and missing travel records (E&E Daily, April 13).
In his Friday letter, Gowdy gave EPA a deadline of April 27 to provide the requested documents and contact his committee staff to schedule the EPA aides' interviews.
An EPA spokesman said the agency would continue to cooperate with Gowdy's investigation.
"We have responded to Chairman Gowdy's inquiries, and we will continue to work with him," said EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox.
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