A stunning new letter released by two top Democrats reveals details about how EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt may have broken federal law when asking one of his top aides to carry out his personal tasks, including hunting down an “old mattress” from Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The letter was released on Monday and addressed to Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It includes a transcribed interview between Millan Hupp, the administrator’s director of scheduling and advance, and the committee, which is currently conducting a probe of several of Pruitt’s scandals. The administrator is facing over a dozen investigations into his spending and management decisions. The letter requests that Gowdy subpoena Pruitt to turn over documents on the issue.
“If Ms. Hupp’s statements to the Committee are accurate, Administrator Pruitt crossed a very clear line and must be held accountable,” the letter states. “Federal ethics law prohibits Administrator Pruitt from using his official position for personal gain and from requesting and accepting services from a subordinate employee that are not part of that employee’s official duties.”
The letter was sent by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA) who both sit on the House committee. It comes after Democratic Senators called last week for an investigation into whether Pruitt broke federal law when asking Hupp — an EPA subordinate — to search for an apartment for him last year without being compensated.
Earlier this month during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Pruitt admitted to having Hupp help him house-hunt during her “personal time” without compensation — a potential violation of federal ethics guidelines.
Hupp is among a small group of people who previously worked with Pruitt in Oklahoma and who joined him in D.C. when he became the EPA administrator. Hupp, one of Pruitt’s closest aides, also received a significant pay raise after Pruitt used a loophole to bypass the White House, which previously denied the request.
As the letter to Gowdy details, Hupp helped Pruitt find a house in D.C. following his stay in an apartment linked to an energy lobbyist. According to the interview transcript, Hupp searched for properties, sometimes during work hours, “over the course of a couple months.” Hupp would frequently visit properties over her lunch hour, she told the committee.
According to Hupp, Pruitt asked her “verbally” to help him seek housing. “When he asked you to do this, did he specify when you should be helping him look for housing? Did he specify during work hours, outside of work hours?” the interviewer asked. “He did not,” Hupp responded, adding that Pruitt did not pay for her house-hunting help.
The interview goes on to discuss the other personal tasks Pruitt would have Hupp do, including book his personal travel to the Rose Bowl while she was “at home on vacation for Christmas.”
The interviewer also asked about an exchange between Hupp and Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., located across the street from EPA headquarters.
As Hupp explained, she had discussions with Pruitt “about the possibility of securing an old mattress from the Trump Hotel.” This occurred around the same time as she was house-hunting for the administrator.
“Did he indicate that he wanted to use the mattress to sleep on, I assume?” Hupp was asked. “I don’t recall specifically,” she answered. When pressed further to explain what happened, “because it sounds like an odd conversation,” Hupp reiterated she didn’t know why Pruitt wanted a mattress from Trump Hotel and that she didn’t know what eventually came of the request.
Trump has previously tweeted, long before becoming president, about the “phenomenal” mattresses at his hotel and where they can be purchased.
My Trump Home Mattress Collection by Serta is setting records–they are really phenomenal. You can order them at http://t.co/oeCVxEGZ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2012
“I assume [the mattress] was not for use at the EPA?” the interview concludes. “Not to my knowledge,” said Hupp.
According to federal rules, federal employees are prohibited from making “a donation or a gift to an official superior.” Federal officials are also barred from accepting “a gift from an employee receiving less pay than himself.”
Previous accounts of Pruitt’s frequent trips home to Oklahoma at the taxpayer’s expense have already raised questions about whether he has been using “public office for personal gain in violation of ethics rules,” the letter states. The new revelations from Hupp server to further “raise concerns about whether the Administrator misused his position.”
In a statement emailed to ThinkProgress, EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox 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.”