Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt admitted he tasked a senior EPA official several times with acting, in effect, as his personal assistant, according to newly released congressional transcripts.
In a May 18 closed-door interview with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Pruitt told the committee that Millan Hupp, the director of scheduling and advance for the agency’s administrator, had helped him with various personal tasks, including his search for an apartment in D.C. Hupp was also questioned by the committee and, according to the transcripts of that interview, said she conducted the work in her free time and was not paid, calling Pruitt a personal friend. But federal ethics rules still prohibit officials from asking their employees to help them with personal matters.
In her effort to help Pruitt find a rental property, Hupp, according to the transcripts, visited at least 10 apartments over the course of a couple months, sometimes during her lunch break. (Pruitt found an apartment but moved out soon after because he and his wife “were not comfortable in the area,” she said.)
Around the time of his move, Pruitt also asked her to get involved in finding an old mattress from the Trump Hotel in D.C., she said—specifically a “Trump Home Luxury Plush Euro Pillow Top” mattress. She did not remember if he actually bought one. And, she said, she booked his travel to the Rose Bowl in California during the New Year’s holiday, using his personal credit card.
The ranking Democrats on the Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings and Gerald Connolly, sent a letter with highlights of the transcripts of Hupp’s questioning to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, to call on the committee to subpoena documents related to Hupp’s real estate–related work for Pruitt. “If Ms. Hupp’s statements to the Committee are accurate, Administrator Pruitt crossed a very clear line and must be held accountable,” Cummings and Connolly said in their letter.
A spokeswoman for Gowdy criticized Cummings and Connolly for releasing the statement, saying that it undermined the committee and could discourage future witnesses, according to the New York Times.
In a statement, an EPA spokesman said, “We are working diligently with Chairman Gowdy and are in full cooperation in providing the Committee with the necessary documents, travel vouchers, receipts and witnesses to his inquiries,” according to the Washington Post.
The interviews came from a larger investigation into Pruitt’s spending. Pruitt, a particularly scandal-prone member of the Trump administration, has, among other eyebrow-raising practices, repeatedly flown first class for “security” reasons, been protected by an around-the-clock security detail out of an overblown fear of threats from the public, and paid $50 a night for a sweetheart deal to rent out a townhouse from a lobbyist. There are a dozen federal investigations into Pruitt’s actions as head of EPA, along with his ties to lobbyists and other ethically dubious matters.