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Democratic lawmakers urge Trump to dismiss EPA chief Pruitt

Pruitt's lease on the Capitol Hill unit required him to only pay for the nights he occupied the apartment

The Washington Post confirmed that three EPA officials - Kevin Chmielewski, former deputy chief of staff for operations; John Reeder, former deputy chief of staff; and Special Agent Eric Weese - left or were reassigned after raising concerns about how Pruitt and his deputies operated.

The EPA says it's worth it. Spokesman Jahan Wilcox said, "Americans should all agree that members of the President's cabinet should be kept safe".

President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday he has faith in Pruitt but is reviewing the situation.

Kelly and other White House aides are frustrated by the steady drip of negative press Pruitt is attracting over a seemingly below-market lease on an apartment owned by the wife of a leading lobbyist; reports that he instructed his security detail to use emergency lights and sirens to beat traffic; and the continuing fallout from his use of private and first-class air travel previous year. He's spent the past few weeks explaining away Pruitt's use of premium airfare and high-priced hotels and responding to congressional inquiries. He also has championed budget cuts and staff reductions at the agency so deep that even Republican budget hawks in Congress refused to implement them.

Those officials' sense of unease continued to escalate over the course of a single day, after the EPA's lead ethics official issued a memo saying that he lacked important facts when he concluded that Pruitt's rental lease with a lobbyist past year did not violate federal gift rules.

The Wall Road Journal editorial board wrote Friday that Trump ought to stand behind Pruitt, saying the administrator is being focused by individuals who do not like his selections on the EPA.

The rental deal has come under intense scrutiny because Hart's husband, J. Steven Hart, is chairman of the firm Williams & Jensen, which lobbies on energy issues along with other matters.

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Pruitt is under fire for, among other things, news that he was living in a Capitol Hill condo owned by the wife of a lobbyist for the fossil fuel industry, and the big pay hikes that two top aides were given.

But Trump so far has stood by Pruitt, despite a review of Pruitt's ethical conduct by White House officials adding to probes by congressional oversight committees and the EPA's inspector general.

A rising variety of members of Congress are elevating questions on Pruitt, demanding paperwork and investigations pertaining to the housing association, statements from company ethics officers, cash paid by the EPA for a door damaged down on the townhouse by Pruitt's safety workforce, and the choice to grant raises below the Secure Consuming Water Act.

In his first three months in office, before pricey overseas trips to Italy and Morocco, the price tag for Pruitt's security detail hit more than $832,000, according to EPA documents released through a public information request. Some EPA agents were reportedly taken out of the field in order to provide security. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. He sometimes used a companion pass obtained with frequent flyer miles accumulated by Ken Wagner, a former law partner whom Pruitt hired as a senior adviser at EPA at a salary of more than $172,000. A massively-swelled security detail and his own personal budget for counter-intelligence. But Perrotta wasn't just there to fluff up the size of Pruitt's security detail. She flew coach and was not accompanied by security during her off hours.

And speaking of Pruitt's security, the EPA director has also installed a soundproof phone booth in his office that cost close to $43,000, had biometric locks put in his office that cost over $5,000 and had his office swept for concealed listening devices for $3,000. The first-class travel arrangement also gave Pruitt and Perrotta "access to VIP airport lounges", according to Friday's report. Pruitt has been criticized for spending $70,000 to replace two desks in his office with ones that were bullet proof. The group also is recruiting conservative voices to join the cause, with a Twitter campaign urging supporters to call the White House switchboard with endorsements of the EPA chief.

The prior head of Pruitt's security detail, Eric Weese, was demoted past year after he refused Pruitt's demand to use the lights and sirens on his government-owned SUV to get him through Washington traffic to the airport and dinner reservations.

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