Scott Pruitt Under Fire For Illegal $43000 Phone Booth In Office

Scott Pruitt Under Fire For Illegal $43000 Phone Booth In Office

As pressure on EPA chief Scott Pruitt to resign mounts amid his ever-growing list of scandals, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded on Monday that the $43,000 soundproof phone booth Pruitt had installed in his office past year at the taxpayer's expense violated federal spending laws.

EPA told GAO the booth is located in a former storage closet in Pruitt's office. Thus, the booth was a practical addition to the administrator's office and did not violate the specific appropriations law provision since it was not "an aesthetic improvement" contemplated by that measure, according to the agency. The Government Accountability Office says any amount over $5,000 required notification of the Appropriations Committees in Congress.

In its explanation to the GAO included in the report, the EPA equated the booth to other necessary office supplies and argued it was needed to "support specific mission requirements" and allow Pruitt to carry out agency business "without concern that classified, deliberative, privileged, or sensitive information might inadvertently be disclosed to those who are not meant to receive such information". EPA also told the GAO the booth "not only enables the administrator to make and receive phone calls to discuss sensitive information, but it also enables him to use this area to make and receive classified telephone calls (up to the top secret level) for the objective of conducting agency business".

The room, known elsewhere in government as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or SCIF, is typically used for reading and meetings involving classified information.

In authorizing the raises, the EPA effectively overruled White House officials who had objected to at least two of the salary increases.

After the meetings, several Democratic lawmakers raised concerns that a variety of Pruitt's actions are "unethical and potentially illegal".

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GAO stressed it was not ruling on whether Pruitt's phone booth itself broke the law, rather that EPA's failure to notify Congress about its spending above the $5,000 limit was the breach. In its report, the GAO explicitly said it drew "no conclusions" about whether or not the privacy booth was necessary for secure communications.

Democrats on Capitol Hill had requested the legal opinion from GAO on Pruitt's phone. The Washington Post reported that the addresses are pruitt.scott@epa.gov, esp7@epa.gov, adm14pruitt@epa.gov and sooners7@epa.gov.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is now investigating Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, had some harsh words for Pruitt's controversial travel habits.

The new reports come as the White House seeks to shake off persistent criticism by lawmakers of ethical lapses and wasteful spending by Trump's senior officials - something that has helped fuel a high rate of turnover.

Senator John Barrasso, a Republican and the head of the Senate environment committee, said in a statement after the GAO's decision that Pruitt's agency must give a "full public accounting" of the spending. Because EPA used federal money in a manner specifically prohibited by law, Armstrong said the agency also violated the Antideficiency Act, and is legally obligated to report that violation to Congress. The EPA should have informed Congress it wanted to spend tens of thousands of dollars on an unnecessary security upgrade.

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