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Democrats ask Justice, FBI for criminal corruption probe into EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

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Washington, June 8, 2018 | comments
USA Today

Several House Democrats are asking the FBI and the Justice Department  to investigate EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for potentially criminal behavior, including reportedly having an aide contact Chick-fil-A to see whether his wife could become a franchisee for the fast food restaurant.

A letter from the lawmakers sent Friday asks FBI Director Christopher Wray and Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan to look into whether Pruitt, the former attorney general for Oklahoma, broke federal anti-corruption laws.

"We write you with grave concerns that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Pruitt has used his public office and official, taxpayer-funded resources for the personal gain of himself and his family, in violation of federal law," the letter states.

The letter was led by Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who serves on the Natural Resources Committee that oversees the EPA. Other signers include Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., both members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., and Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., both of whom serve on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who serves on Natural Resources.

Asked earlier this week about allegations, first reported by The Washington Post, that he directed a top aide to help his wife, Marilyn, become a Chick-fil-A franchisee, Pruitt seemed to indicate that political enemies were behind the story but that his wife "loves" the restaurant. 

Aside from looking into the Chick-fil-A situation, the letter asks Justice officials to investigate a below-market rental agreement for a Capitol Hill apartment Pruitt leased last year from the wife of then-head of a prominent Washington lobby firm that represented energy clients regulated by the EPA.

The agreement is one of about a dozen ethical investigations being conducted by various parties, including Congress, the EPA's Inspector General and the White House.

Pruitt and his aides have steadfastly defended the administrator's conduct as ethical and above-board. And President Trump so far has shown no inclination to fire a cabinet official who is leading efforts to deregulate the economy and eliminate Obama-era environmental rules.

On Friday, the president gave Pruitt a qualified vote of confidence when asked if he was going to let him go.

"Scott Pruitt's is doing a great job within the walls of the EPA," Trump told reporters at the White House. "Outside, he's being attacked very viciously by the press. And I'm not saying that he's blameless, but we'll see what happens."

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