Environmental Protection Authority Administrator Scott Pruitt winks at National Welders Dealers Association President and CEO Peter Welch as he enters the podium at a press conference at EPA Headquarters in Washington on Tuesday. (AP)
The Environmental Protection Agency Chief Ethics Officer said Wednesday that he lacked important facts when he recently concluded that Scott Pruitt's lease with a lobbyist last year did not violate nationwide gift-giving rules.
Kevin Minoli, EPA In a March 30 memorandum, Pruitt wrote that Pruitt's lease for a room in a Capitol Hill condominium run by lobbyist Vicki Hart was charged for only $ 50 a night only if he lived there – did not present a gift because that sentence would have been worth a monthly rent of $ 1,500 for 30 consecutive days. Minoli described this as "a fair market value".
But in a new memo, first reported by CNN and received independently from the Washington Post, Minoli emphasized that he did not cover only the terms of the lease and not the document's activities
The lease, for example, saw the use of one Single room in front. "Everything else is controlled by the landlord," it said. But several EPA officials have confirmed that Pruitt's adult daughter has stayed in the second bedroom of the condominium for a time she worked at the White House last year.
"Some have raised questions as to whether the actual use of the space matches that of the apartment terms of the lease," Minoli wrote. "The evaluation of these questions would have required factual information that we do not have and these questions will not be dealt with."
He also clarified that he had not investigated whether Pruitt's injunction violated the impartiality rule that would have prevented the trustee from contacting other employees in Vicki Hart's lobbying firm
The agreement was intensively reviewed because Harts husband, J. Steven Hart, chairman of the Williams & Jensen company, which deals with energy issues other matters. He told the Post last week that he had "no lobby contact with the EPA in 2017 or 2018" and described Pruitt as a "casual friend" with whom he had little contact. In recent interviews, however, Pruitt has described Hart as a person he has known for years.
A copy of the lease attached to Minolis's last note showed that Steven Hart's name was scrawled and his wife's name was handwritten. According to a senior administrative official, Vicki Hart himself made the change.
Pruitt has repeatedly highlighted in interviews with several conservative media this week the fact that officials of the Agency Uri have approved his Capitol Hill lease.
He told the Washington Examiner that Steven Hart was a colleague Oklahoman who has no clients with business at the EPA. "I've got an ethics consultant here at the agency, the Legal Counseling Office and Ethics Officer, who checks the lease. You have looked at the lease. Most people who criticize me did not do that. If you look at the lease, the market value is clear, "he said.
And he told The Washington Times," Career Ethics officials at the EPA … have reviewed the lease and found that there are no ethical concerns it's market value. I lived out of a suitcase, and I literally had access to a room in a unit where the others always had access to a common room. In fact, I could pull up comps. The ethics people have actually done that.
Later, during an interview with Fox News, the reporter Ed Henry asked, "Did not President Trump say that he would drain the swamp? Does she drain the swamp by renting an apartment from the wife of a Washington lobbyist? "
" I do not even think that's even nearly fair to ask that question, "Pruitt replied.
The administrator went on to repeat this. EPA ethicists had approved the lease in recent days and "There were comps made by ethics officials here," Pruitt said, pointing to Craigslist's finding it possible to find similar rents in the same neighborhood for under $ 1,000.
In An e-mail Wednesday night, EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said that Minoli's most recent memo "confirms the memorandum from EPA, which stated that the condo lease was lawful, based on market information for similar lettings on Capitol Hill."
"There is no connection between Pruitt's decisions at EPA and any place where he lived. Any attempt to make this connection is obviously wrong, "she added.
Despite Pruit's insistence that EPA career officials gave the go-ahead for his life arrangements from late February to early August, the agents of the agency were unaware of it. 19659019) Then the political advisors attacked and contacted the ethics lawyers to make a hasty decision, even though they did not know some details of the arrangement, according to the people who were familiar with the Agency's response (19659020) These individuals said that both Minoli and Justina Fugh, the EPA's Senior Counsel on Ethics and an agency veteran, had signed the deal before news surfaced that Pruitt's daughter was also in the apartment, Vicki Hart said last week in a statement that she was unaware of the young woman's presence and that Pruitt was paying her extra rent would owe if the reports were true.
In his last memo, Minoli states that he has found seven private room rentals for $ 55 or less at night within a six-block radius of where Pruitt stayed. But he found that the average cost of rental housing on Capitol Hill was $ 2,361, and that the eight one-bedroom rentals were rented from Hart's apartment for three blocks averaging $ 2,173 a month, according to Zillow.
Finally, given the availability of several private rooms in the area that were available for similar rents, the price paid was "a fair market value of the use authorized by the lease terms".
The sharp focus on Pruitts' housing estate, as well as the criticism of his first-class trip and the huge salary increases recently received from two top adjutants, shook his inner circle.
Samantha Dravis, longtime adviser and senior attorney at the EPO's Political Bureau filed her resignation. Their decision to leave is unrelated to Pruitt's recent ethical issues, which several Agency officials have known first-hand. But there comes a time when he relies on an ever-narrower group of consultants to make decisions.
Scott Pruitt of the EPA sees himself intensified, criticizing his ethical decisions
After leaving $ 50 Kurt Pruitt had no fixed DC address for a month
explored in the EPA Private Lease for Pruit's Travels last year