EPA director Scott Pruitt is the latest member of the Trump administration to be accused of unethical behavior, in his case, renting out a room on a Capitol Hill condo owned by the wife of a high-powered energy lobbyist for $50 per night for about six months in 2017. The story took an odd turn on Friday when ABC News reported that the agency security workers assigned to Pruitt busted down the front door to the condo when it was believed that he was inside unconscious. The incident took place on March 29, 2017 in the late afternoon. A schedule released by the American Oversight watchdog organization shows that Pruitt’s final meeting for the day was scheduled to end at 3:30 pm.
According to recordings obtained by ABC News, Pruitt’s security detail had a Capitol Police officer call 911 after Pruitt failed to answer repeated phone calls or respond to knocks on the front door of his rental. From ABC News:
“They say he’s unconscious at this time,” the 911 operator is told, according to the recordings. “I don’t know about the breathing portion.”
Responding fire units from a Capitol Hill station house mobilized. “Engine three, Medic two respond to unconscious person,” the radio transmission said.
The protective detail then broke down the building’s glass-paneled front door and ascended two flights to Pruitt’s $50-a-night bedroom, where two sources tell ABC News he was found groggy, rising from a nap. It is unclear what led to the panic that caused the response. Pruitt declined medical attention, and a police report was never filed.
A source familiar with the incident claimed that the EPA reimbursed the condo’s owner, Vicki Hart, wife of top energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart who advocates on behalf of firms regulated by Pruitt’s EPA. According to canceled checks reviewed by Bloomberg News, Pruitt has an Air BnB-style arrangement where he only pays for the nights he stays in town rather than paying a fixed monthly rate, totaling $6,100 from March 2017 to September 2017. From Bloomberg News:
Justina Fugh, who has been ethics counsel at the EPA for a dozen years, said the arrangement wasn’t an ethics issue because Pruitt paid rent. An aide said the agency had not reviewed the arrangement in advance.
According to ABC News, Pruitt’s daughter McKenna also stayed in the condo during her 2017 White House summer internship.
ABC News claims that the agency has refused to comment on or answer questions questions regarding the bizarre door incident “for months.” It’s unclear as to why a spokesperson won’t clarify what happened, especially since it involved a 911 call and Pruitt’s security detail physically forcing itself into his residence.
Accepting a below market rental from the wife of an energy lobbyist isn’t the first time Pruitt has been accused of behaving unethically while working for the White House. During his first year in office, Pruitt cost taxpayers $163,000 by traveling via military jets, private planes, and first class commercial flights.