June 4, 2018 / 9:09 PM / 2 months ago

EPA staffer ran errands for Pruitt, looked into buying Trump mattress

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, had an employee carry out his personal errands, including researching the purchase of an old mattress from the Trump International Hotel, according to an interview transcript released by congressional Democrats on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Appropriations Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2019 for the Environmental Protection Agency on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago

The interview with EPA’s Director of Scheduling and Advance Millan Hupp detailed how Pruitt relied on her to find housing in Washington and to book personal travel, without paying her for such services.

Pruitt is already under fire for paying below-market rent on a lobbyist-owned condominium, and has established a legal fund to defend himself against a growing list of accusations related to his spending and reported ethical missteps.

Hupp, who once worked at Pruitt’s Oklahama-based Political Action Committee and describes the administrator as a personal friend, said she also looked into obtaining a used mattress from the deluxe hotel that President Donald Trump opened in Washington just before he won the 2016 election.

The White House is “certainly looking into the matter,” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told a regularly scheduled press briefing on Monday. “I couldn’t comment on the specifics of the furniture used in his apartment.”

In the interview, which was conducted by Republican and Democratic congressional staff, Hupp said she did not have to help obtain other furnishings for Pruitt and she did not recall if he ultimately got the mattress.

Public employees’ salaries are paid by taxpayers so there are strict limits on their work, and federal ethics laws forbid officials from using public office for private gain.

Representatives Elijah Cummings and Gerry Connolly, senior Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, called on the committee’s chairman, Republican Trey Gowdy, to look into the matter, saying that if Hupp’s statements were accurate “Pruitt crossed a very clear line and must be held accountable.”

“We are working diligently with Chairman Gowdy and are in full cooperation in providing the Committee with the necessary documents, travel vouchers, receipts and witnesses to his inquiries,” EPA Spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert Additional Reporting by David Shepardson

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