EPA chief secretly gave huge raises to longtime aides

White House frustrated with EPA's Pruitt for apartment controversy

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittWhite House looking into Pruitt activities after condo controversy: report EPA reportedly approved a company's project while Pruitt stayed in one of its lobbyists' condos EPA considered leasing a private jet for Pruitt: report MORE celebrated with auto industry representatives Tuesday after his ruling that future vehicle emissions standards should be eased.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt rented a bedroom in a Capitol Hill townhouse used for multiple GOP fundraising events while he stayed there.

White House chief of staff John Kelly followed up with Pruitt on Tuesday morning and reinforced the President's message, the official added.

ABC News and Bloomberg News reported last week that during his first six months in Washington previous year, Pruitt made a deal to pay about $50 a night - less than a third the price of similar properties - to rent a room in a Capitol Hill neighborhood condo building co-owned by energy industry lobbyist Steven Hart and his wife. "The accusation that would have been pinned on the administrator was that they were trying to give a private benefit using public funds".

"From advocating to leave the Paris Accord, working to repeal Obama's Clean Power Plan and WOTUS, and cleaning up toxic Superfund sites that have been languishing for decades, Administrator Pruitt is focused on advancing President Trump's agenda of regulatory certainty and environmental stewardship", Wilcox said. The White House has launched a formal inquiry into Pruitt's living situation when he first moved to Washington, D.C., last year. A memo signed by Kevin Minoli contended that the $50-a-night payments constituted a fair market rate.

Pruitt's lease, however, required him to pay just for nights he occupied in the unit. Pruitt actually paid a total of $6,100 over the six-month period he leased the condo, an average of about $1,000 a month. The agency said new data shows the standards to be obsolete.

The firm also represents OGE Energy Corp., an electricity company serving Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Walter Shaub, who ran the U.S. Office of Government Ethics until resigning past year, tweeted that EPA's legal justification of Pruitt's living arrangements was "Total Baloney". Democrats have asked the EPA Inspector General to look into the agreement, which has put Pruitt in the unwelcome spotlight. Though federal regulations typically require federal officials to fly in coach, the EPA chief has said he needed to sit in premium seats due to security concerns.

Still, the disclosure, coming on top of existing probes of Pruitt's reliance on first-class flights and frequent travel to his home state of Oklahoma, has spurred bipartisan calls for further investigations and even the EPA administrator's resignation.

"I don't know how you survive this one", former New Jersey governor and ABC News contributor Chris Christie told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday.

Trump is said to be fond of Pruitt and has cheered his moves to rollback regulations and do battle with environmental groups.

"This is another step in the President's regulatory agenda, de-regulatory agenda. a billion dollars in savings with respect to over 22 significant regulatory actions that we've been involved in here at the agency", Pruitt said at EPA headquarters Tuesday. Shulkin denied any wrongdoing.

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