GAO Says Pruitt Violated The Law

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in his office at the agency’s headquarters last fall

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in his office at the agency’s headquarters last fall

Additionally, because EPA "obligated appropriated funds in a manner specifically prohibited by law", GAO said the agency also violated the Antideficiency Act.

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy on Friday sent a letter requesting more information from Pruitt, accused of excessive spending on travel, vehicles, staff raises and over-the-top security features such as a $43,000 soundproof phone booth.

A 2017 spending bill capped at $5,000 expenditures to "furnish, redecorate, purchase furniture for, or make improvements for the office of a presidential appointee". The agency paid $23,000 for the phone booth and another $25,000 install a drop ceiling, remove closed-circuit television equipment and pour more concrete around the booth, according to agency contracts. "EPA is addressing GAO's concern, with regard to Congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week".

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EPA Spokeswoman Liz Bowman said the agency would comply with the findings and alert lawmakers.

President Trump continues to stand by his embattled Cabinet member, tweeting earlier this month that Pruitt's "bold actions" as EPA administrator in deregulaton efforts point to the "great job" he's doing. The law allows for criminal prosecution if an agency staffer knowingly violated the statute, but that seems highly unlikely. Federal investigators did not opine on whether Pruitt needed such a booth. "So the notion that I have 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, like maybe a monk where you don't come in contact with anyone", Gowdy said.

The phone booth first attracted criticism from Democrats and spending watchdogs after The Washington Post reported on its construction last September.

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The investigation by Gowdy, the House Oversight Committee Chairman, has continued after reports surfaced that Pruitt had been renting a room in Washington, DC, for below market price from a family with ties to an energy lobbyist.

"These are operated by EPA sub-organizations and are located three floors away from the Administrator's office", the report states.

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