Democrats on Thursday unleashed a coordinated assault, pressing Pruitt to answer “yes” or “no” questions about his spending — which he declined to do. He frequently told lawmakers that he did not know, or could not recall details related to the reports, causing one Republican, retiring Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., for example, to remark that he found some of Pruitt’s answers “lacking or insufficient.”
Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., who slammed Pruitt for demonstrating “a lack of respect for American taxpayers” in his opening remarks, grilled Pruitt about significant raises given to two EPA employees who followed him to Washington from Oklahoma over White House objections.
Pruitt had said in a previous TV interview that he was unaware of those raises, but backtracked Thursday and acknowledged that he had authorized his chief of staff to sign documents for those raises. However, Pruitt maintained that he was “not aware” of the amounts, or that he was bypassing certain procedures.
“Well then, I’m concerned that you have no idea what is going on in your name at your agency,” Tonko said.
Pallone asked about reports that Pruitt retaliated against staffers who questioned his decisions by reassigning or demoting them. Pruitt said, “I don’t ever recall a conversation to that end.”
Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., also pressed Pruitt about the alleged retaliation.
“There’s no truth to the assertion that decisions have been made about reassignment or otherwise as far as employment status based upon the things that you reference,” said Pruitt. “I’m not aware of that ever happening.”
Pruitt also claimed Thursday that there have been two ethics reviews about the condo lease and insisted that it “met market rates.”
Regarding the phone booth in his office, Pruitt said that he never expressed that $43,000 was “appropriate,” but rejected the finding from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that the purchase violated federal law.