In another exchange about whether he had asked for sirens and flashing lights to be used to expedite a trip to his "favorite" Washington restaurant, the upscale French eatery Le Diplomate, Pruitt answered, "There are policies in place regarding the use of lights".
Fearing a "public relations nightmare", President Donald Trump's White House and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the reign of administrator Scott Pruitt, blocked the release of a major water contamination story, according to emails obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists and reported on by Politico. Tom Udall of New Mexico, the top Democrat on a Senate appropriations subcommittee that prodded Pruitt on Wednesday, the EPA chief denied making the request.
Pruitt, whose tenure with the agency has been plagued by scandals like rampant spending, dodged questions from senators on topics from unapproved raises for staffers to his unprecedented (and expensive) security detail.
Udall also asked Pruitt about a tweet issued by EPA's official account last month mocking Democratic senators for failing to block the confirmation of Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist now working as EPA's No. 2 official. "Those policies were followed by the agencies".
"I don't recall", Pruitt said.
Udall then disclosed an internal email indicating Pruitt did.
An internal email from then-EPA special agent Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta indicating EPA administrator Scott Pruitt wanted his motorcade to use flashing lights and sirens.
Pruitt was sworn in as EPA administrator on February 17, 2017. It added "Btw - Administrator encourages the use". Perrotta also wrote the agency's justification for Pruitt's first-class travel.
"I was unaware of the tweet and that shouldn't have occurred", Mr. Pruitt said.
Pruitt's team claimed the administrator needed heavy security protection because of death threats.
"Instead of being asked about the work that you are doing on WOTUS [Waters of the United States] or the Clean Power Plan or the Superfund program, I am being constantly asked to comment on security, on housing and on travel", Murkowski said.
"What a silly reason you had to fly first class", Leahy said.
"You attack the core mission of the EPA and you attack human health", Leahy said.
Udall also pushed Pruitt on his reported requests to his security detail to use lights and sirens to escape Washington traffic. "You have used your office to enrich yourself at the expense of the American people".
"I think as attorney general, it's important for law enforcement, those investigators that serve prosecutors to be able to provide adequate information to them to make informed decisions about how they will proceed as prosecutor".
The agency is also weighing creating a legal drinking water threshold for PFOA and PFOS, he said. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Mississippi Republican, said she was "most impressed" with his push to ease regulations and clean up a contaminated site in her state.
Udall, describing Pruitt's management of the agency as "disastrous, " again called on Pruitt to resign.