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Pruitt employees had extensive relationships with lobbyists who are tied to "sweetheart" condo deal show emails



Nearly two months after the first disclosure that Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, hired a Capitol Hill condo for $ 50 a night from the wife of a top lobbyist, newly published emails show that the relationship is not Limited to an unorthodox lease was approval.

Emails received by the Sierra Club in a lawsuit against the EPA reveal numerous communications between Pruit's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, and lobbyist J. Steven Hart, in which Hart apparently tried to direct and influence the EPO Decisions – efforts that Hart and Pruitt had previously denied.

  PHOTO: Chief Environmental Officer Ryan Jackson (R) listens to Administrator Scott Pruitt hears before the Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill on April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images [19659005] Chief of Staff Environmental Protection Agency Ryan Jackson (R) listens to Administrator Scott Pruitt testifying before the Committee on Energy and Commerce on Capitol Hill April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC

Hart sent some e-mails while the administrator rented the apartment from his wife ,

"These emails make it clear that Scott Pruitt received a declaration of love from a lobbyist who did business before the EPO and bluntly lied to the Americans about it," said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club.

The emails between Jackson, Pruit's senior advisor, and Hart, who was a senior lawyer at Williams Jensen, a lobby firm in Washington, at the time, come frequently and show a close relationship. Hart invites Jackson for dinner and often asks him for favors – including trying to make friends with the EPA.

Hart emailed Jackson in April 2017, reporting to a family friend who had applied for a job with the EPA. Jimmy Guiliano sought a political position with the EPA when Hart Jackson wrote that his wife, Pruit's landlord, spoke directly to Pruitt and he continued to pursue the matter.

"He [Pruitt] told Vicki to talk to you about how to handle it," Hart Jackson writes.

Jackson replies "after" Hart wrote that Guliano was "important to us". In a statement to ABC News, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said, "The agency accepts professional referrals from a number of acquaintances, and ultimately, Mr. Guiliano has not been hired."

In another June 2017 email exchange, Hart Jackson sends a biography of Dennis Treacy, president of the Smithfield Foundation – the nonprofit arm of Smithfield Foods, which is a firm that Hart represents.

Hart writes in the text of the e-mail: "He is a Virginia representative at Chesapeake Bay and a conservative R. He is controllable."

In a follow-up, Hart writes to Jackson later that same day: "Pruitt is already scheduled to meet Dennis with me on July 11. Dennis is controllable, so do not bet on him."

  PHOTO: A View of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on March 16, 2017 in Washington, DC Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
A look at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA March 16, 2017 in Washington, DC

The lobbyist continues to talk about other plans they have and then asks Jackson to call him.

"No urgency, but we have to talk about problems that have nothing to do with the EPA."

It is unclear what this could refer to.

A spokesman for Smithfield's "these activities were not undertaken" on instructions from the company, but rather to requests from Treacy, who they said were linked to "a number of other environmental organizations".

"Smithfield expects its advisors to comply with all applicable laws, including those requiring timely disclosure of lobbying activities," the spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News.
Meanwhile, Hart said the condominium layout did not affect his contacts with the E.P.A.

"As I have repeatedly said, I have never received any special treatment from Administrator Pruitt or had any inappropriate influence on the Environmental Protection Agency," he said in a statement to ABC News. "Ryan Jackson is an old friend I knew many years before serving with the EPA, and during his tenure as Chief of Staff we discussed numerous topics and issues, but he has never done a special favor for me."

Hart's emails went on to cover a wide range of topics. In an e-mail late last year, Hart wrote to Jackson about Michael Dourson's upcoming nomination to oversee the EPA's Chemical Safety Department.

"Dinner tonight with Burr," says Hart Jackson in an email in November 2017, referring to Senator Richard Burr. "Should I try to move him or just give up?"

  PHOTO: Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, listens to President Donald Trump speaking at a cabinet meeting in the White House on June 21, 2018. Evan Vucci / AP
Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, listens to President Donald Trump speaking during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on June 21, 2018.

Dourson was eventually joined by the Trump Administration nominated.

"A president with some disgrace would have dismissed him months ago," he said in reference to President Trump.

"Ryan Jackson and Mr. Hart are both from Oklahoma and have known each other for years," said Wilcox ABC News on behalf of the EPA. "Many of these e-mails were unsolicited and had no impact on agency policy outcomes."

For several months, Pruitt was examined by the Inspector General, several congressional committees, and the White House for questions about his spending habits. It became known that he spent most of his first year as an EPA administrator in first grade, which is not typical for cabinet members.

Nonetheless, an investigation by the EPO Inspector General revealed that Pruit's chief of staff Jackson was directly monitoring and approving the wage increases for two of Pruit's senior staff: Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp.

Greenwalt received a salary increase of more than $ 50,000, bringing her salary to over $ 164,000. And for Hupp, an increase of nearly $ 30,000 was approved, bringing her salary to more than $ 114,000.

Shortly after the rallies became public, Pruitt told Fox News in an interview that he did not know about the increases and that he had taken steps to reverse them. But Pruitt later told a congressional committee that he gave a top consultant permission to give large salary increases to at least two EPA employees, which differed from how he had characterized the admission for these increases in the past.

Both helpers have since resigned.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are frustrated with Pruitt. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst said earlier this month that Pruitt "is about as marsh as you come here in Washington, DC And if the president wants to drain the swamp, he has to look at his own cabinet."

Pritts former communications consultant Liz Bowman resigned her position at the EPA and now works for Ernst, who leads an indictment of Pruitt with eye-catching television advertising.

For his part, President Trump stands with Pruitt.

"I look at Scott and Scott did a fantastic job at the EPA," Trump told reporters earlier this month when asked about the growing issues. "I'm not happy about certain things, I'll be honest."

White White House sources do not believe that the president has any intentions to dismiss Pruitt.

ABC News & # 39; Katherine Faulders has contributed to this report.


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