Government Watchdog Says EPA Broke Law With Pruitt Phone Booth

Government Watchdog Says EPA Broke Law With Pruitt Phone Booth

The Republicans asked for an array of documents about Pruitt's security detail and its lead member, Pasquale Perrotta, citing "new information" in a letter Friday to the Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

"W$3 e conclude that EPA violated section 710 [of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act] when it obligated $43,238.68 for the installation of a soundproof privacy booth without providing advance notice to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate", Thomas H. Armstrong, the GAO's general counsel, wrote.

Any office expenditure above $5,000 requires lawmakers be notified, according to the eight-page GAO report. The agency paid $23,000 for the phone booth and another $25,000 install a drop ceiling, remove closed-circuit television equipment and pour more concrete around the booth, according to agency contracts.

The booth itself cost $24,570.

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GAO disagreed, saying even by that logic, EPA should have notified Congress. EPA officials said Congress was intending to restrict only an "aesthetic improvement" to appointees' offices, but GAO said they were selectively reading the statute.

Liz Bowman, an EPA spokeswoman, said the agency was "addressing GAO's concern, with regard to Congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week". Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

EPA has said Pruitt needed the privacy booth to make secure phone calls with President Donald Trump and others without fear of eavesdropping.

The investigation by Gowdy, the House Oversight Committee Chairman, has continued after reports surfaced that Pruitt had been renting a room in Washington, DC, for below market price from a family with ties to an energy lobbyist. "Cabinet-level officials need to have access to secure communications (systems)". The South Carolina Republican also demanded a long list of documents from EPA about Pruitt's travel spending and unprecedented security precautions. He repeated the phrase during remarks Thursday at the White House.

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