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EPA watchdog to continue Pruitt probes

The Hill logo The Hill 7/13/2018 Timothy Cama
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The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) internal watchdog will continue work on at least five of its ongoing probes involving former Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Kentia Elbaum, a spokeswoman for the EPA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG), said Thursday that five closely watched probes that the office has publicly announced involving Pruitt and his close aides will carry on despite Pruitt's resignation last week. The list appears to include all of the known ongoing audits.

The OIG doesn't disclose ongoing criminal investigations, but Elbaum said any such probes involving Pruitt will continue as well.

"We can say that any criminal investigations that may have existed at the time of Mr. Pruitt's resignation will continue," Elbaum said in a statement.

Pruitt left amid more than a dozen investigations by various federal bodies, including the EPA inspector general.

Democrats, environmentalists and even some of Pruitt's supporters have pushed for the numerous investigations, audits and other probes to confirm or deny the allegations that have dogged him for months.

The OIG probes are looking into Pruitt's lavish first-class travel, potentially inappropriate raises given to staff, more than $3.5 million in security costs, employees that may have been overpaid and whether Pruitt's office properly preserved email and text messages.

Investigators are also continuing to compile a "factual" account of a speech Pruitt gave last year at a National Mining Association event. Lawmakers sought the probe after Politico reported that Pruitt asked the group to push President Trump to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

The office told lawmakers that it is looking into whether Pruitt improperly used his aides for personal tasks like apartment hunting and finding a lotion he likes, although officials have not publicly confirmed the probe.

Two House Democrats are sponsoring an appropriations amendment that would block the EPA from implementing any regulations Pruitt helped to write until the OIG probes are complete.

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