Two House Democrats asked the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Inspector General’s Office on Thursday to immediately launch an investigation into whether agency chief Scott Pruitt violated the Federal Records Act.
The lawmakers — Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) — pointed to recent reports that Pruitt intentionally hid or falsified records of meetings and discussions with representatives of industries regulated by the EPA.
EPA staffers, for example, met in Pruitt’s office to “scrub” details from Pruitt’s official calendar records because they might “look bad,” according to Kevin Chmielewski, Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff for operations, who attended the meetings.
“We ask that you protect that public trust, and establish whether Administrator Scott Pruitt violated the Federal Records Act, and if so, determine what he concealed and why,” Beyer and Lieu wrote in their letter, dated Thursday, to Arthur Elkins, EPA’s inspector general. “Further, we ask that you take the appropriate steps to hold him accountable for such actions, as required by law.”
The two Democrats, in their letter, emphasized that “willful concealment or destruction of such records is a federal crime carrying penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.”
The EPA had not responded to a request for comment from ThinkProgress at the time this article was published.
Chmielewski said meetings, events, and phone calls were deliberately omitted from the version of Pruitt’s official calendar that was released to the public. Pruitt “had at one point three different schedules. One of them was one that no one else saw except three or four of us,” Chmielewski told CNN.
Numerous meetings that have been mentioned in news reports — and in some cases confirmed by EPA spokespeople — do not appear on Pruitt’s officially released schedule, the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
Excluded from Pruitt’s official schedule were meetings with an energy lobbyist, the CEOs of a shipping company and a coal company, and Cardinal Pell, who was subsequently charged with criminal sexual offenses, the Democrats said.
Reports indicate @EPAScottPruitt used "secret" calendars & schedules to hide controversial mtgs w/ industry players. Willful concealment or destruction of such records is a federal crime carrying penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment.
— Rep. Ted Lieu (@RepTedLieu) July 5, 2018
Beyer is the vice-ranking member of the House Science Committee and a member of the House Natural Resources Committee. Lieu is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.
Pruitt has been plagued by scandal after scandal over the past six months. But President Trump appears to be standing by his EPA administrator based on Pruitt’s commitment to weakening and cutting environmental regulations.
“The reports that have come out are something that the president is concerned about, and there are many of those reports,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Tuesday, according to a Politico report. “The president feels, though, as Scott Pruitt has done a really good job at deregulating the government to allow for a thriving economy; that’s important to him.”