Trump praises EPA head, is looking into reports

Embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt faced questions about his lease and two big raises that went through for EPA staff members close to him

Now to The New York Times: "At least five officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, four of them high-ranking, 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, Scott Pruitt".

Pruitt told Fox News on Wednesday that he didn't know about the raises until Tuesday.

Pruitt has loyally executed Trump's deregulatory agenda with plans to roll back Obama-era programmes cutting emissions from power plants and vehicles.

President Donald Trump floated replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions with Scott Pruitt as recently as this week, even as the scandal-ridden head of the Environmental Protection Agency has faced a growing list of negative headlines, according to people close to the President. Chmielewski declined to comment to CNN about the report.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told ABC News the agency "will respond to Congresswoman McCollum through the proper channel".

Kevin Minoli, the EPA's principal deputy general counsel, had written in a March 30 memo that Pruitt's lease with condo co-owner Vicki Hart - for $50 a night, charged only when he stayed there - did not constitute a gift because that rate for 30 consecutive days would have equated to a monthly rent of $1,500. Besides paying for pay raises for two of his employees out of money dedicated to the Clean Water Act, Pruitt apparently lived for the first part of past year in a condo provided by a lobbyist and his wife. It's an extraordinarily bad choice to fly first class everywhere in this climate.

The report goes in depth on how these staffers were sidelined, often publicly so, following conversations with Pruitt over these issues.

She reportedly told officials within the EPA that she meant to resign last week as scrutiny intensified around Pruitt's spending habits, hefty raises he gave to top members of his staff, and his rental of a Washington property co-owned by a prominent energy industry lobbyist.

Pruitt has told the Washington Examiner in an interview that he was "dumbfounded" his renting of the room in a townhouse was controversial and said his ethics officials reviewed the lease.

"I think he's done a fantastic job at EPA".

Asked by reporters as he boarded Air Force One if he has confidence in the embattled EPA official, Trump said: "I do". "You know, I just left coal and energy country. He has marginalized staff experts, refusing to meet with them, and actively worked to reduce the size of the agency", the members wrote.

But he defended his employees, saying with a touch of hubris that they 'serve a very important person'. These terms were far beyond reasonable for the area, and even if they had nothing to do with the Enbridge decision, he should have known that any fair-minded observer would have concerns about him taking favors from lobbyists or their spouses.

A review of Pruitt's conduct by White House officials is underway, adding to other probes being conducted by congressional committees and EPA's internal watchdog.

Mr. Trump, an avid Fox viewer who puts great stock in TV performances, did not appear to think much of Mr. Pruitt's appearance. When McCollum was unable to help them find a key to access Pruitt's unit, local law enforcement called by Pruitt's detail and Capitol Police broke down the door the condo.

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