Trump praises EPA chief Pruitt under fire for ethics, spending

Pruitt had aide look into Chick-fil-A franchise opportunity for his wife report

"Thank you very much, Scott".

Scott Pruitt commented Wednesday on his recent Chick-fil-A business venture, stating, "with great change comes great opposition" when referring to the "changes" he's making at the Environmental Protection Agency. The staffer then worked with Chick-Fil-A to set up a call for Pruitt and the CEO because "the Administrator would like to talk about a potential business opportunity".

The counsel, Sarah Greenwalt, is due to appear for questioning this month by a panel of House Oversight committee staffers investigating allegations of ethics violations against Pruitt.

At the time, Sydney Hupp, 25, was also working in Pruitt's office as an EPA scheduler.

Pruitt's wife Marlyn started an application to open a Chick-fil-A franchise but she never finished it, the restaurant told the Post.

However, President Donald Trump, who has encouraged Pruitt's rollback of environmental regulations at the EPA, continued to publicly stand by Pruitt.

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As EPA chief, Pruitt has received round-the-clock protection since he took office in February 2017.

Trump's praise follows mounting ethics concerns about Pruitt. "You know, somebody has to say that about you a little bit", said President Trump at a FEMA event.

According to two officials who spoke anonymously with the Washington Post, Pruitt had his 24/7 security detail carry out several tasks beyond the scope of their jobs, including picking up his dry cleaning (without him) and facilitating a wild goose chase to Ritz-Carlton Hotels in search of his favorite lotion (with him). The EPA in August spent $1,560 on a dozen customized silver fountain pens emblazoned with the agency's seal and Pruitt's signature.

Pruitt in a statement called Hupp a "valued member of the EPA team from day one". The Government Accountability Office determined in April that the pricey installation of a soundproof phone booth in Pruitt's office violated federal spending laws, which require agencies to notify lawmakers if exceeding a $5,000 cap on furnishing, redecorating or otherwise making improvements to agency heads' offices.

Pruitt in appearances before congressional hearings this spring has denied responsibility for any ethical lapses, saying subordinates made those decisions.

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