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Thursday, April 19, 2018

He must really kiss the King's ring just the way he likes it

by digby

Another day, another Scott Pruitt scandal and no sign that Trump will ever fire him:

Newly released calendars for one of the most controversial trips of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure were largely blacked out before being shared with ABC News.

The 47-hour journey in Morocco was already drawing congressional scrutiny and criticism from outside groups because of the lack transparency over why Pruitt was in the country and what he was doing while he was there.

In Morocco, he spent at least a portion of his time promoting exports for U.S. energy firms. Conservative congressional estimates put the cost of the trip at more than $40,000, and because of travel snags, Pruitt and his aides spent two days in Paris at high-end hotels.

Pruitt did not publicly announce he was going ahead of time, did not bring reporters along, and when he finally released copies of his itinerary in response to Freedom of Information requests from ABC News and other news organizations, the bulk of the schedule was blacked out.

“The substantial redaction of calendars from his trip to Morocco, in which he apparently spent substantial taxpayer money to work on an issue that could benefit donors and those with ties to him, seems like just the latest example of the inappropriate secrecy he has brought to every aspect of his job.,” Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the nonpartisan watchdog Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington, said in a statement.

What is known about Pruitt’s trip to Morocco last December comes from a press statement he released as he departed to fly back to D.C. According to the EPA press release, he discussed U.S. environmental priorities and the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement with Moroccan leaders and, to the surprise of some, promoted benefit of liquid natural gas imports in Morocco.

At the time of the trip, the only U.S. company that exported liquid natural gas was represented by a top Washington lobbyist who arranged $50-a-night housing for Pruitt when he first moved to town. The company, Cheniere, and the lobbyist, Steven Hart, both told ABC News they did not ask Pruitt to promote the exports in Morocco.

A spokesman for Hart told ABC News that he did not lobby the EPA in 2017, but federal lobbying records show that he was registered as a lobbyist for Cheniere at the time Pruitt lived in the condo co-owned by his wife, also a prominent DC lobbyist.

The EPA's inspector general is looking into Pruitt's travel as part of its audit of whether all the agency's travel decisions followed the proper procedure. That inquiry was expanded to include the Morocco trip after a letter from Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the ranking member of the Senate committee with oversight of EPA, expressed concern about the cost. Pruitt's first-class flight alone cost $17,000 and at least one of his aides and members of his security detail also flew first class.

Most agency heads are authorized to travel first class on trans Atlantic flights, but the cost of the trip concerned members of Congress who were already looking at his high domestic and international travel costs.

He went there to talk about a natural gas deal. But natural gas is not part of the EPA's responsibilities.

Nobody knows what in the hell this guy is up to. Personally, I think he's got issues on top of being a greedhead and an ideologue. This isn't normal.