Scott Pruitt’s prep document of ‘hot topics’ ready ahead of congressional hearings
Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is armed with a list of “hot topics” that he will potentially face during a marathon day of questioning by two Congressional committees on Thursday. A source with direct knowledge described a document to ABC News called “hot topics” includes a rough draft of talking points for Pruitt as he prepares to field questions from lawmakers.
Pruitt’s plan, according to the source familiar with the document, is for the embattled agency head to say he now only flies coach when traveling compared to his costly first-class travel in the early days of his time on the job. The document also says he plans to address the high priced salary hikes for two of his closest aides that have been by his side going back to his Oklahoma days.
Pruitt’s intention, per the source, is to claim he had no knowledge of the raises and pass the blame onto his staff. He previously denied that he knew about the raises in a contentious interview with Fox News.
“I did not know about the pay raise. I did not approve the process. The process was breached by individuals here at this agency and there’s going to be accountability there. Those individuals, that should not have happened. I can’t say anything any clearer than that,” Pruitt said in the interview that aired earlier this month.
The EPA’s inspector general found that Pruitt’s chief of staff Ryan Jackson signed the paperwork approving the raises as “Ryan Jackson for Scott Pruitt.”
Pruitt also plans, according to the document as described by the source, to address a report by the New York Times that the EPA boss retaliated against staff who rejected his demands.
The Times report said at least five staffers were “reassigned or demoted, or requested new jobs in the past year after they raised concerns about the spending and management of the agency’s administrator.”
The extent of the accusations has not been verified by ABC News.
At least one of those employees, Kevin Chmielewski, then-deputy chief of staff, has met with members of Congress and staffers about the allegations as concerns have grown about the claims.
Pruitt’s intention is to deny those charges as well.
The description of the “hot topics” document was first reported by the New York Times, which has reviewed the document. The EPA has not responded to a request from ABC regarding the document.
“He’s been on lockdown,” said a separate source within the EPA regarding Pruitt’s preparations for the two Congressional hearings. “He’s been in marathon prep. Tomorrow is going to be a very interesting day,” the source continued referring to the hearings.
As ABC News has previously reported, Pruitt declined an offer from the White House to help him prepare for Thursday’s hearings, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations. The sources familiar with the prep say the group sessions have been led by his chief of staff, Jackson.
Among the spending concerns Pruitt will face questions over include his travel expenses, security details, and the installation of a $43,000 “secure phone booth” in his EPA office.
Lawmakers are also expected to grill Pruitt over his living arrangement at a Capitol Hill condo co-owned by a wife of a top lobbyist with business interests before the EPA. Pruitt’s $50 a night deal, first reported by ABC News, took place over the course of much of last year when he first came to Washington.
Between the ethics violation and spending concerns, Pruitt is the subject of 10 investigations and a White House review. There have been calls for Pruitt’s resignation from both sides of the aisle, though he has retained public support from President Trump.
Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman for the E.P.A., said in a statement that Mr. Pruitt was looking forward to discussing the agency’s efforts with lawmakers.
“Congressional hearings are an opportunity to reiterate the accomplishments of President Trump’s E.P.A., which include: working to repeal Obama’s Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States, providing regulatory certainty, and declaring a war on lead, all while returning to Reagan-era staffing levels,” Mr. Wilcox said.
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