How so? “I did not know that they got pay raises until yesterday,” EPA head, Scott Pruitt told Fox News
Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt claims he had no idea two longtime staffers received hefty raises over the objections of the White House.
The embattled Trump administration official — also under fire over a sweetheart condo deal rented from the wife of a gas and oil lobbyist — told Fox News that he was unaware that the double-digit pay increases, he had previously requested, were implemented for EPA staffers who previously worked for Pruitt in Oklahoma, where he was the state attorney general.
“My staff and I found out about it yesterday and I changed it,” he told Fox News.
Sarah Greenwalt, 30, was Pruitt’s general counsel in Oklahoma and serves as his senior counsel at the EPA.
Millan Hupp, 26, was on his political team before she accompanied her boss to Washington to become the EPA’s scheduling director.
In March, Pruitt approached the White House and asked for substantial pay raises for two of his closest aides, Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp. Pruitt had reportedly asked that Greenwalt’s salary be raised from $107,435 to $164,200, and Hupp was to jump from $86,460 to $114,590 for Hupp.
Because the employees were political appointees, the White House needed to sign off on it but refused.The Presidential Personnel Office dismissed the request.
A rarely used provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act was used to circumvent the White House decision and give the two staffers raises. Pruitt told Fox News , that he had no idea, how the salary increases came about.
“I did not know that they got pay raises until yesterday,” he said.
A longtime critic of the agency he now controls, Pruitt’s tenure has been marked by repeated criticisms of his spending habits and his ties to lobbyists and industry insiders.
Pruitt has faced calls for his ouster for leasing a Capitol Hill condo from the wife of a prominent fossil fuel lobbyist for only $50 a night.
In response Pruitt said: “This was like an Airbnb situation,” he said.
“When I was not there, the landlord, they had access to the entirety of the facility. When I was there, I only had access to a room.”
Once rumored as a possible replacement for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Pruitt has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of first-class flights, walks around 24/7 with a 30-man security team and had a $43,000 soundproof phone booth built at his EPA office.
Despite his growing list of controversies, Trump reportedly reached out to his environmental czar to offer support.
Two administration officials told the Associated Press that the President called Pruitt on Monday and told him that “we’ve got your back.”
Pruitt has long enjoyed a close relationship with the oil and gas industries.
Since being appointed by Trump he has repeatedly raised eyebrows for meetings with various industry executives and lobbyists while the EPA was considering revising rules that regulated them.