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The GOP House oversight chair ridiculed Scott Pruitt on Fox News

Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy said the EPA administrator should sit in the back of the plane to avoid unpleasant travelers.

House Oversight Committee Chair Trey Gowdy (R-SC) comments on Scott Pruitt on Fox News Sunday
Fox News
Umair Irfan is a correspondent at Vox writing about climate change, Covid-19, and energy policy. Irfan is also a regular contributor to the radio program Science Friday. Prior to Vox, he was a reporter for ClimateWire at E&E News.

An influential Republican leader, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the chair of the House Oversight Committee, had sharp words on Sunday for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and his stupefying pattern of unethical behavior.

Asked by Fox News’s Chris Wallace whether he was troubled by Pruitt’s profligate spending on furniture, flights, and security detail, and other “serious ethical questions,” Gowdy said yes, he’s concerned about both the expenses and the justifications for them. Pruitt’s explanation for needing to fly first class, for instance — for his security and to avoid unpleasant travelers — is unconvincing, Gowdy said.

“If you sit first class, you’re guaranteed to come in contact with everybody else on the plane,” Gowdy said. “If you really want to avoid the people on the plane, sit in the last seat, not the first seat.”

The comments came just two days after the House committee Gowdy leads ramped up its investigation into Pruitt’s potential misconduct as new details of improprieties, according to former EPA Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Chmielewski, emerged in two letters last week.

The House Oversight investigation led by Gowdy has now expanded beyond Pruitt’s first-class and charter flights and into his security detail and his use of hiring authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act to secure raises for two close aides after the White House declined to approve their pay bumps.

The committee’s inquiry adds to a growing list of audits into Pruitt’s actions in office. The EPA’s inspector general and the Government Accountability Office are also looking into Pruitt’s travels, housing arrangements, and other potential ethics violations.

In the letter, Chmielewski also reported being threatened by the head of Pruitt’s security detail, Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, after Chmielewski objected to some of the administrator’s travel requests, including an option to lease a private jet for $100,000.

The oversight committee also reported last week that the EPA had failed to turn over all the requested documents regarding Pruitt’s first- and business-class travel arrangements. The committee added that it was also looking into Pruitt’s housing arrangements with prominent fossil energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart and his wife Vicki Hart.

Most Republicans in Congress have ignored Pruitt’s transgressions because they approve of his advancement of the conservative deregulatory agenda at the EPA.

But the fact that a few of them — including Gowdy and three other House Republicans who have openly called on him to resign — have soured on Pruitt may signal that the tide could turn against him.

On Fox News Sunday, Gowdy also threw a jab at Pruitt for his attempts to use his position at the EPA to beef up his résumé for a widely expected run for higher office.

“I’d be shocked if that many people knew who Scott Pruitt was, so the notion that ‘I’ve got to fly first class because I don’t want people to be mean to me,’ you need to go into another line of work, like maybe a monk, where you don’t come into contact with anyone,” Gowdy said.

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