Pruitt's Security Team Broke Down Condo Door Last Year

Clay Curtis
April 2, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) top ethics official said Friday that Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittPruitt lived in condo co-owned by energy lobbyist's wife: report EPA pushes informal policy to deal with polluters outside courts Trump administration picks new fight with California MORE's lease of a Capitol Hill condo previous year aligned with ethics rules. The owner is a health care lobbyist, Vicki Hart.

Questions have swirled around Pruitt's rental agreement since it was first reported yesterday, including whether it was allowed under federal ethics laws. Steven Hart, is the chairman of a Washington lobbying firm, Williams & Jensen, with several energy clients including OGE Energy Corporation, Cheniere Energy and Colonial Pipeline.

Hart is the chairman of a D.C. lobbying firm, according to reports by ABC News and Bloomberg on Friday. "My wife does not, and has not ever lobbied the EPA on any matters".

Williams & Jensen earned $520,000 in lobbying fees from Owens-Illinois previous year.

Former President Barack Obama made regulatory efforts to fight greenhouse gas emissions - and climate change - a central focus of his second term in office.

The lobby firm also earned $400,000 in fees from OGE Energy in 2017. Yet the story grew more mysterious (if only tangentially so) on Friday, when ABC revealed that Pruitt's security detail had to break down the door of the condo last March, believing he was unresponsive and needed to be rescued.

Patrick Sullivan, the EPA's assistant inspector general for investigations, told CNN that Pruitt has received four to five times the amount of death threats as previous EPA chief Gina McCarthy. Pruitt "signed a market based, short-term lease for a condo owned partially by my wife", Hart said, according to a statement released by his firm to the Associated Press.

"I was not in those meetings and had no knowledge of them until I read this", Hart said.

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In a statement Thursday, Hart said Pruitt is a casual friend from Oklahoma who moved into the building in early 2017.

Also in 2015, Hart donated $1,000 to Oklahoma Strong Leadership PAC, a federal political committee affiliated with Pruitt. Hart said he had no contact with Pruitt for many months, other than a brief exchange at the National Prayer Breakfast in February. "There is no ethics issue", Hart said.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt paid for a single bedroom in the building on a leafy street about a block from the U.S. Capitol, staying for about six months in 2017 during nights he was in Washington. Pruitt paid only for nights he used the room, thus avoiding the cost of a full-time rental.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox did not respond to calls or emails from ABC News.

Minoli's finding came after a day in which ABC News and other outlets broke news that Pruitt was paying $50 per day to live in the property, but only when he slept there; he could use other amenities in the condo; and his adult daughter lived with him for a period of time without Pruitt or the daughter paying more. "I had no idea where Gina McCarthy lived", Fugh told BuzzFeed News, referring to Pruitt's predecessor. It was a routine business arrangement between Pruitt and an individual, not a lobbying firm, she added.

Public interest watchdogs have asked whether it was a prohibited gift under federal ethics laws as well as whether it should have been blocked by the gift ban in President Trump's executive order on ethics.

The condo is co-owned by the wife of a top lobbyist whose clients include oil refiners and natural gas pipeline operators.

In December, Pruitt and members of his staff spent about $40,000 in taxpayer funds to fly to Morocco to help encourage the North African kingdom to import liquefied natural gas from the United States.

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