In a meeting with congressional Democrats, a former Environmental Protection Agency official and Trump campaign aide outlined new allegations that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt engaged in unethical and illegal behavior.
In a letter to Pruitt, two senators and three members of the House of Representatives wrote that Kevin Chmielewski, who served as the deputy chief of staff of operations at the EPA under Pruitt, "provided new details and corroborated other reports regarding allegations of wasteful spending of taxpayer funds and your disregard for the ethical and legal requirements of your position."
Those allegations include reports that Pruitt knowingly gave raises to favored EPA employees while marginalizing those who challenged him; that he directed staff to book flights on Delta regardless of governmental contracts with other airlines in order to build up frequent flyer miles; that he repeatedly opted to stay in expensive hotels that exceeded the governmental per diem (while Pruitt himself was always reimbursed, that was not always the case for his security detail); and that he told staff to come up with reasons for him to travel to Oklahoma, his home state, on long weekends at taxpayers' expense.
"The new information provided by Mr. Chmielewski, if accurate, leaves us certain that your leadership at EPA has been fraught with numerous and repeated unethical and potentially illegal actions on a wide range of consequential matters that you and some member of your staff directed," the Congress members wrote.
The letter, which was signed by Senators Thomas Carper (D-Delaware) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), and Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Gerald Connolly (D-Virginia), and Donald Beyer (D-Virginia), requested documents that might verify Chmielewski's allegations, and sent a second letter to President Donald Trump informing him of their concerns.
The letters were sent on the same day the Senate is expected to confirm Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, as EPA's second in command. Though as the controversy surrounding Pruitt has intensified, Democrats have said they will try to delay the vote as much as possible. "The circumstances regarding Mr. Wheeler have changed since we had our nomination hearing and vote with the cloud over Administrator Pruitt," Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), told reporters Wednesday. "I think it would be best advised to hold off on this vote to see if we are voting on the acting administrator or the deputy administrator."