politics

White House Says It’s Reviewing EPA Administrator’s Rent Arrangement

Updated on
  • Democratic lawmakers question Scott Pruitt about housing
  • Pruitt claimed no knowledge of aides’ raises in Fox interview

Scott Pruitt

Photographer: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg

The White House is reviewing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s arrangement to rent a condo from the wife of a prominent energy lobbyist, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday.

“We’re reviewing the situation. When we have had the chance to have a deeper dive and will let you know the outcomes of that,” she said. “But we’re currently reviewing that at the White House.”

Asked if Pruitt retains President Donald Trump’s confidence, Sanders said that Trump “thinks he has done a good job, particularly on the deregulation front. But again, we take this seriously and are looking into it.”

Trump called Pruitt Monday to assure him his job is safe amid mounting scrutiny of his travel, hiring practices and the unorthodox condo rental arrangement last year, according to two administration officials. The president told Pruitt to “keep your head up” and “keep fighting,” because the White House has “got your back,” one of the officials said. That message was reinforced by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly in a telephone call to Pruitt on Tuesday morning.

Pruitt’s unconventional lease with health care lobbyist Vicki Hart, whose husband J. Steven Hart represents clients in industries regulated by the EPA, allowed him to pay $50 a night for a bedroom in the condo only when he slept there. He paid $6,100 to use the room for about six months, according to copies of rent checks reviewed by Bloomberg News.

Four Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday wrote Pruitt to request information about his housing arrangements and his relationship with his landlords.

“We are very concerned by recent reports that you and at least one other member of your family were afforded a room in a prime Capitol Hill location for what appears to be unusually favorable terms by a landlord with personal connections to you and to an industry regulated by the agency that you lead,” they wrote.

The EPA administrator is under fire for a number of controversial behaviors, including his high-dollar travel habits, renovations to his office, the lease and raises that The Atlantic reported this week were granted to two close advisers over White House objections.

Pruitt told Fox News on Wednesday that he didn’t know about the raises until Tuesday. “I corrected the action and we are in the process of finding out how it took place and correcting it,” he said.

“I don’t know” who awarded the raises, he said in the interview. The Atlantic, citing a source it didn’t identify, reported that Pruitt last month used a provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act to boost the salaries of the two aides by tens of thousands of dollars each. The White House had rejected his proposal to award them raises, the magazine said.

— With assistance by Toluse Olorunnipa, and Jennifer A Dlouhy

(Updates with letter from Democrats in sixth paragraph.)
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