Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt both knew about and supported massive raises for two of his longtime aides, despite denying having any knowledge of the action, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Citing two EPA officials familiar with the decision and a White House official, the Post said Pruitt instructed agency officials to give a $56,765 raise to Sarah Greenwalt and a $28,130 raise to Millan Hupp. Both women worked with Pruitt in Oklahoma where he served as attorney general and followed him to Washington, according to The Atlantic, which first reported the salary bumps.
Just a day earlier, Pruitt was subject to a blistering line of questioning from Fox News’ Ed Henry, who asked if the EPA administrator had any knowledge of the pay increases, which were carried out through a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act after the White House rejected them.
“I found out this yesterday and I corrected the action, and we are in the process of finding out how it took place and correcting that going forward,” Pruitt said after attempting to duck the question several times. Henry later asked if the EPA chief was “embarrassed” by the size of the raises.
The report adds to a growing mountain of ethical issues dogging Pruitt’s tenure, ranging from his sweetheart rental of a condo on Capitol Hill to the ongoing inquiry into his first-class air travel. On Thursday, the Post and the Times reported that several high-ranking EPA officials have been reassigned or demoted for questioning the administration’s spending.
One of Pruitt’s top advisers, Samantha Dravis, resigned on Wednesday and his chief of staff has also considered leaving as pressure grows and lawmakers increase calls for his resignation, the Times also reported this week.
“The president thinks that he’s done a good job, particularly on the deregulation front,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday when asked about Pruitt’s future. “But again, we take this seriously and we’re looking into it, and we’ll let you know when we’re finished.”