The Latest: EPA inspector general weighs in on Pruitt remark

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) –The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt and his appearances on Capitol Hill (all times local):

4:45 p.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general is taking issue with Administrator Scott Pruitt invoking an internal review of security threats to justify spending taxpayer money on first-class airfare.

In a statement issued while Pruitt was still testifying Thursday before a House subcommittee, Arthur Elkins said that he never signed off on the document. Pruitt had earlier read from the August 2017 summary of threats, including a tweet from a man saying he planned to shoot him.

Elkins said that summary was prepared by Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Patrick Sullivan and “leaked without authorization.”

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The New York Times reported earlier this month that Sullivan was recently spotted out drinking beers with Pruitt security chief Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta. The inspector general has previously described the two as “professional colleagues and friendly.”

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4:05 p.m.

Democrats representing coastal states are pressing Environmental Protection agency chief Scott Pruitt over his statements casting doubt whether man-made carbon emissions are the primary cause of climate change.

Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine recounted Thursday at a hearing how fishermen are worried about the future as warmer water pushes lobsters farther north.

Rep. Derek Kilmer invited Pruitt to visit Native American tribes in his home district in Washington state, where fisheries are under threat. Sea level rise there is inundating villages.

Pruitt is a fervent advocate for expanding production of fossil fuels. He has said that man is responsible for some warming but that the science is unsettled as to how much.

Pingree said Pruitt is making excuses for doing nothing to regulate carbon emissions while the world is in danger.

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3:30 p.m.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is denying involvement in the decision for him to fly in first-class airline seats at taxpayer expense.

Pruitt said Thursday during a hearing Thursday before a House subcommittee that his security team and staff decided he should use premium-class airfare following an internal review of threats against him.

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Pruitt said that he flew in coach last year before the change was made and that he recently decided to stop flying in premium seats because he felt “from an optics and perception standpoint, it was creating a distraction.”

EPA special agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta played a central role in the switch to first-class seats shortly after taking over Pruitt’s security detail last spring.

The Associated Press reported that Perrotta typically sat next to Pruitt on the plane.

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3:05 p.m.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has read aloud from two written threats against him, including a tweet about a plan to shoot him.

Pruitt sought to rebut questions Thursday at a hearing about whether the level of security threats against him warranted expensive security precautions. Those include flying in first class and expansion of his personal security team to provide around-the-clock protection, including during family vacations.

Pruitt read a 2017 tweet that said: “Pruitt, I’m going to find you and put a bullet between your eyes. Don’t think I’m joking, I’m planning this.”

An investigation by EPA’s Office of Inspector General determined that the person who wrote the tweet “is currently believed to be living in India.”

Pruitt is testifying at two back-to-back hearings before House subcommittees Thursday.

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11:45 a.m.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt says he was unaware his security chief moonlighted as an investigator for a tabloid news company with close ties to President Donald Trump.

Pruitt says the consulting work by EPA special agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta is under review. Perrotta leads Pruitt’s 20-member, full-time security detail.

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The New York Times and The Associated Press reported Monday that Perrota worked as a private investigator for National Enquirer publisher American Media Inc. during the 2016 election.

AP’s report cited a person with knowledge of Perrotta’s work for AMI CEO David Pecker. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

AMI spokesman Jon Hammond has disputed how AP’s source characterized Perrotta’s role.

Perrotta has not responded to requests for comment.

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10:55 a.m.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt concedes he did have some knowledge of big pay raises awarded to two close aides.

At a hearing, Democrat Rep. Paul Tonko of New York pressed Pruitt on whether he knew about the raises for 30-year-old senior legal counsel Sarah Greenwalt and 26-year-old scheduling director Millian Hupp.

In a Fox News interview on April 4, Pruitt insisted he didn’t approve the raises and didn’t know who did.

Documents later showed EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson signed off on the raises and indicated he had Pruitt’s consent.

Pruitt said Thursday he actually delegated authority to Jackson to give the raises but didn’t know the exact amounts.

Greenwalt received raises of more than $66,000, bringing her salary to $164,200. Hupp saw her salary jump to $114,590, after raises of more than $48,000.

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10:25 a.m.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt is testifying in potentially make-or-break hearings on Capitol Hill, where he will face questions about spending and ethics scandals that have triggered bipartisan calls for his ouster.

Pruitt read a prepared statement about his agency’s fiscal year 2019 budget priorities to begin the first of two back-to-back hearings before House subcommittees.

The public grilling comes amid erosion in support for Pruitt among fellow Republicans after a monthlong swarm of negative headlines about outsized security spending, first-class flights and a sweetheart condo lease.

President Donald Trump has continued to stand by his EPA chief. But behind closed doors, White House officials concede Pruitt’s job is in jeopardy. A growing list of Republican lawmakers has joined Democrats in calling for new investigations into Pruitt’s actions.

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