EPA officials sidelined or demoted after raising concerns about Pruitt

Multiple senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were sidelined or demoted after they pushed back on ...

Posted: Apr 6, 2018 11:27 AM
Updated: Apr 6, 2018 11:27 AM

Multiple senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were sidelined or demoted after they pushed back on or raised concerns about Administrator Scott Pruitt's pricey travel, office spending and management of the agency, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN.

Pruitt's international travel, frequent trips to his home state of Oklahoma and exorbitant office expenditures have drawn concerns from ethics experts and yielded headlines for months, but two sources familiar with the matter said they could have been avoided had Pruitt heeded the advice of multiple EPA officials -- both career officials and political appointees. Instead, the sources said, the officials who disagreed with Pruitt were iced out, reassigned or demoted.

Kevin Chmielewski, who was one of the longest-serving top advance officials on President Donald Trump's campaign, was stripped of his work phone and ID card and placed on administrative leave, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said. He had previously served as a deputy chief of staff for operations.

Two career officials were also pushed aside, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said. John Reeder was moved to American University as an "executive in residence" after clashing with Pruitt. His deputy who succeeded him as acting deputy chief of staff, Reginald Allen, was effectively demoted.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox disputed the allegations and said in a statement: "This is a group of disgruntled employees who have either been dismissed or reassigned."

Chmielewski and Allen declined to comment. Reeder did not respond to requests for comment.

The three officials had raised concerns about Pruitt's spending with him or his top aides. Two sources familiar with the matter said the actions taken against the employees fit a pattern of Pruitt sidelining officials who disagreed with him in favor of surrounding himself with those who would approve of his decisions.

The New York Times first reported on these actions Thursday afternoon.

Some costly items that were considered but faced pushback included a $100,000-a-month air charter membership, a $70,000 bulletproof desk replacement and a refurbished desk that cost more than $2,000.

Other concerns centered on international trips Pruitt took related to official visits but that involved mostly leisure time, including to Italy and Morocco; the first-class travel he sought for some of his top deputies; the frequency of his travel home to Oklahoma; and spending on furnishings for his office, among other issues.

The concerns add to a growing list of ethics issues that have swirled around Pruitt, raising further questions about his future as head of the EPA, where his deregulatory actions have pleased Trump. Top White House officials have grown frustrated with Pruitt, but while White House chief of staff John Kelly advocated for his firing, Trump has so far continued to back Pruitt.

Top officials at the EPA initially demanded Chmielewski's resignation but did not fire him, instead placing him on unpaid administrative leave, an uncertain limbo. He was placed on leave after he returned from a trip to Japan with Vice President Mike Pence, where he filled in as an advance official.

While Pruitt has suggested he has faced criticism for his actions because Democrats are seeking to undermine him, the friction between him and Chmielewski suggests a broader concern. Chmielewski formed a personal bond with Trump during the 2016 campaign as one of his senior advance officials, helping to set up the rallies that drew massive crowds Trump reveled in.

When Trump held a rally in Chmielewski's hometown, he asked him to join him onstage and called him a "star."

In addition, CNN's Rene Marsh has confirmed that Special Agent Eric Weese, who worked on Pruitt's protection team, was demoted when he refused to drive with lights and sirens blaring through the streets of Washington, according to three sources with knowledge of the situation.

Pruitt has come under increasing fire as reports steadily uncover extensive spending on travel and other potentially major ethical lapses, including an agreement to rent a room in Washington for only $50 a night from a lobbyist couple whose firm lobbies the EPA.

Trump on Thursday said he still had confidence in Pruitt, and CNN reported Thursday that as recently as this week, the President floated having Pruitt replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Samantha Dravis, a top aide to Pruitt at the EPA, said earlier Thursday that she was resigning.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37210

Reported Deaths: 1495
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12048782
Ramsey4777222
Stearns231219
Dakota224890
Anoka2155107
Nobles16616
Olmsted107615
Washington104840
Mower9322
Rice8277
Scott6844
Clay58037
Kandiyohi5661
Wright4535
Blue Earth4422
Todd4002
Carver3611
Lyon3052
Sherburne3035
Freeborn2890
Steele2231
Watonwan2150
Benton2123
St. Louis17415
Martin1615
Nicollet15512
Cottonwood1340
Goodhue1278
Winona12015
Crow Wing10412
Pine1030
Chisago971
Otter Tail921
Le Sueur911
McLeod850
Carlton830
Dodge830
Unassigned8237
Polk812
Chippewa761
Isanti650
Itasca6412
Waseca620
Douglas610
Meeker591
Morrison591
Becker550
Jackson550
Faribault540
Murray540
Sibley532
Pennington510
Mille Lacs342
Brown312
Pipestone311
Wabasha310
Beltrami290
Rock290
Yellow Medicine290
Renville282
Fillmore270
Houston250
Swift211
Norman200
Wilkin203
Redwood170
Wadena150
Aitkin140
Big Stone140
Cass142
Kanabec141
Koochiching141
Marshall120
Grant100
Lincoln100
Pope100
Roseau100
Clearwater70
Mahnomen71
Lake60
Hubbard50
Traverse50
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30173

Reported Deaths: 718
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6275178
Woodbury320144
Black Hawk218058
Buena Vista170511
Linn123882
Johnson12318
Dallas122329
Marshall103519
Story7463
Pottawattamie71911
Scott70410
Wapello70230
Crawford6752
Muscatine62444
Dubuque60922
Sioux4610
Tama45829
Wright3771
Louisa36013
Jasper32117
Plymouth3134
Dickinson2592
Warren2581
Washington2349
Hamilton1871
Webster1702
Boone1421
Cerro Gordo1381
Clarke1272
Clay1270
Allamakee1264
Mahaska11517
Shelby1110
Clinton1041
Poweshiek1048
Pocahontas931
Carroll911
Bremer906
Des Moines862
Henry853
Franklin840
Cedar801
Taylor790
Emmet780
Cherokee751
Monona740
Floyd682
Marion680
Hardin650
Guthrie644
Sac630
Benton621
Jefferson580
Osceola580
Jones560
Harrison530
Humboldt531
Butler522
Buchanan511
Iowa510
Lee502
Monroe506
Hancock490
Calhoun482
Delaware481
Lyon400
Madison402
Clayton393
Davis391
Mills360
Palo Alto360
Winneshiek360
Grundy350
Fayette340
Mitchell340
Kossuth330
Lucas304
Greene280
Howard280
Chickasaw270
Jackson270
Union270
Winnebago270
Ida230
Cass210
Appanoose203
Keokuk201
Page200
Van Buren190
Audubon161
Adair150
Ringgold150
Worth150
Decatur110
Montgomery102
Wayne90
Adams80
Fremont70
Unassigned70
Rochester
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 80°
Mason City
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 75°
Albert Lea
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 81°
Austin
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 81°
Charles City
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 81°
HOT AND HUMID
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Minnesota baseball players get a sense of normalcy

Image

Sean's 10pm Weather 7/2

Image

Mask Mandate in Cerro Gordo County

Image

Raising Kids to be Tolerant

Image

Student Athlete Speaks Out About Racist Comments

Image

Volunteer of the Month

Image

June Jobs Report Shows Promise

Image

Intermittent Fasting may slow aging process

Image

Extra enforcement to keep boaters safe and sober

Image

All State Award for local VFW

Community Events