House Democrats Just Asked the FBI to Open a Criminal Investigation Into Scott Pruitt

They point out it’s illegal for public officials to use their position or staff for private gain.

Ron Sachs/CNP via Zuma

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Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt already faces at least 12 federal inquiries from the EPA’s Inspector General, Government Accountability Office, and House Oversight committee.

Could a criminal probe be next?

Six House Democrats led by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) sent a letter on Friday to the FBI and Department of Justice requesting a criminal investigation into Pruitt. “At the very least, we know that federal ethics laws bar public officials from using their position or staff for private gain,” they write in the letter. “Administrator Pruitt has certainly done just that. Further, his actions related to his wife’s employment and the quid-pro-quo condo situation with industry lobbyists may have crossed a line into criminal conduct punishable by fines or even by time in prison.”

The letter cites recent revelations about how Pruitt used his position to find a job for his wife and his staff to obtain a “well below market value” rental in a Capitol Hill townhouse owned by an energy lobbyist. There have been additional stories this week about how Pruitt directed an aide to hunt for a used Trump hotel mattress and his security detail to find him a certain lotion only available at Ritz-Carlton hotels, presumably inspired by the time he spoke to the National Mining Association at the hotel in April of last year.

In May, Pruitt confirmed in a Senate budget hearing that he has set up a legal defense fund to potentially address the expanding number of investigations into his behavior. Although the fund would be useful if he faced a criminal investigation, ethics experts see it as potentially another ethical minefield, because federal law says he cannot accept donations from donors whose business interests involve the EPA. 

Read the letter from the House Democrats:

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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