On top of pending investigations into snake oil (literal oil) huckster Scott Pruitt’s myriad ethical breaches, Republican Congressperson and House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (SC) added further reasons to investigate the EPA administrator on Friday. The offenses are not like destroying the climate so hard that I probably won’t have babies–more like wasting exorbitant sums of taxpayer money on first class flights, but whatever! Whatever it takes to get rid of this man. Jaywalking, unpaid parking tickets, pee tape, I don’t care!
Gowdy has called for interviews with several high-level shady functionaries and requested travel documents from security chief Nino Perrotta who “egged on” the lavish expenditures, Politico reports. Gowdy also requested the itinerary and travel documents for Pruitt’s now-infamous Morocco trip during which he reportedly went to sell Morocco on American gas.
On Wednesday, Gowdy had claimed that Pruitt’s office failed to provide documents which the Committee had previously requested on first class flights and renting a condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist:
On Thursday, house and senate democrats sent a letter to Pruitt detailing allegations by Kevin Chmielewski, a former EPA deputy chief of staff. Chmielewski alleged that Pruitt spend hundreds of thousands on:
- first-class flights
- private security firms
- redecorating the office
- a soundproof booth
- using EPA staff as personal apartment scouts
- using the emergency sirens to bypass traffic
- giving “one of his closest confidents” a job which she didn’t do for several weeks
- manipulating the Safe Drinking Water Act to give old colleagues five-figure raises
- renting a condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist (and then never paying the tab)
As of Friday, the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General was also conducting four audits at the agency and investigating the former “no-show” top aide Samantha Dravis, and the Office of Government Ethics has called for another, though it can’t take direct action.
Disturbingly the root of the investigation, like all “ethics” investigations under Trump, is not actually ethics, but taxpayer-funded theater to maintain the appearance of ethics to taxpayers who have been robbed in the first place. The New York Times quoted a Monday morning email to the EPA from from David J. Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics. Emphasis mine:
The success of our government depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve...The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed.
Notably, Apol’s predecessor threw in the towel in July 2017 after heavily implying that there was little he could do under the current administration.
Last Saturday, as reported by Vox, Gowdy said that he “doesn’t have a lot of patience” for widely-reported scandals. “It gets worse every time there’s a report in the news,” he said at a book signing.
GOP senator John Neely Kennedy (LA) told Face the Nation last week: “I don’t mean to denigrate Mr. Pruitt, but doggone it, he represents the president of the United States, and it is hurting his boss and it needs to stop.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (SC), on condo-gate: “The bottom line: This doesn’t look good.”
The investigations are expected to take months, Vox notes.
Meanwhile, a black woman just got a five-year prison sentence for trying to vote.