In a wide-ranging interview with EPA administration Scott Pruitt, FOX News' Ed Henry grilled the agency chief on payraises for close friends and renting a condo from an energy lobbyist at below D.C. market rate. Ed Henry doesn't believe that EPA chief Scott Pruitt was not aware of a large payraise his top aides received.
Pruitt admitted the pay raises "should not have happened."
The FOX Newser also skewered the EPA administrator over his living accommodations in an interview broadcasted Wednesday, calling it a "sweetheart deal." Pruitt pays under market rent for a Washington, D.C. condo owned by an energy lobbyist.
"Is draining the swamp, renting an apartment from the wife of a Washington lobbyist?" Henry bluntly asked.
Henry grills Pruitt on the pay raises:
HENRY: Now if you’re committed to the Trump agenda, why did you go around the president in the White House and give pay raises to two staffers?
PRUITT: I did not -- my staff did and I found out about that yesterday and I changed it. That PPO process should have been respected and I issued a statement yesterday walking back those pay raises that should not have been --
HENRY: Should somebody be fired for that?
PRUITT: -- should not have been done.
HENRY: Who did it?
PRUITT: And maybe – there will be some accountability for that.
HENRY: A career person or a political person?
PRUITT: I don’t know, I don’t know.
HENRY: You don’t know.
PRUITT: I don’t --
HENRY: You don’t know -- you don’t know who did it?
PRUITT: I found out about this yesterday and I corrected the action.
HENRY: So --
PRUITT: And we are in the process of finding out how it should play in correcting that going forward.
HENRY: So hang on, both of these staffers that who got these large pay raises are friends of yours? I believe from Oklahoma right?
PRUITT: They are staffers here on the agency.
HENRY: And they are from – there friends of yours?
PRUITT: Well they serve a very important person.
HENRY: And you didn’t know that they got these large pay raises?
PRUITT: I did not know that they got the pay raises until yesterday.
HENRY: OK one of them got a pay raise, let’s see $28,000 the other was $56,000 dollars. Do you know what the median income in this country is?
PRUITT: No what is it?
HENRY: $57,000 a year. So one of your friends from Oklahoma got a pay raise that’s the median income --
PRUITT: They did not get a pay raise, they did not get a pay raise.
HENRY: They did.
PRUITT: No they did not. They did not I stopped that yesterday.
HENRY: So you stopped it. Are you embarrassed that --
PRUITT: It should not have happened, it should not have happened. And the officials that were involved in that process should not have done what they did.
HENRY: So --
PRUITT: They should not have gone around PPO to use whatever --
HENRY: The presidential --
PRUITT: -- the presidential personnel office. And look there was authority to do it. It was not a legal issue, there was authority to do it and it should not have been done. And Ed you asked me about 15,000 employees. You know I am focused on a few things here at the agency as far as regulatory reform.
HENRY: Oh I see.
PRUITT: So when personnel matter, administrative matters are actually conducted, you’ve got people around you that you trust that are making those kind of decisions. And these people are hard working individuals.
PRUITT: One of them has worked very, very closely on the large United States Rule (ph).
HENRY: Then --
PRUITT: So, so, so they’ve worked very diligently on many things, from regulatory reform across the board. Now, what they – what happened was – should not have happened.
HENRY: So, haven’t conservatives rallied against crone – what they call, crony capitalism, where you put your friends – when you get in power, you put your friends in. They get large pay raises and then they get contracts. You’re not embarrassed by it?
HENRY: These are your friends.
PRUITT: -- I would say to you that I’ve said, unequivocally, that what’s at place here should not have taken place--
PRUITT: And I learned about it yesterday. I did not know about the pay raise. I did not approve the process. The process was breached by individuals here at this agency. And there’s going to be accountability there. Those individuals – that should not have happened. I can’t say anything any clearer than that.
HENRY: Let me go back to where I started.
HENRY: You challenged me at the very top and said, I haven’t made – there are not problems, I’m not in trouble, I believe you said. And then people are going around you and giving a pay raise of $56,000 and you don’t know about it until yesterday? And the White House is furious?
PRUITT: Do you know today, Ed, I still don’t have a deputy at this agency? Do you know that I didn’t get a general council until December?
Henry grills Pruitt on his "sweetheart" condo rental deal:
HENRY: The president has given you a lot of credit for cutting regulations. But you’ve also gotten into a lot of trouble and you said yesterday this is a toxic environment. But do you take responsibility for any of the mistakes you’ve made here in Washington?
PRUITT: Well I think – first let me talk about the regulatory reform. I mean the purpose of the regulatory reform effort is to provide certainty to those that we regulate. And what we’ve seen the last several years among several sectors of our economy, it’s tremendous uncertainty and almost a weaponization of the agency against certain sectors of our economy. Which has caused low growth and the president came in and said we’re going to deal with regulations, we’re going to pass a tax cut package, and what’s happened?
Extraordinary growth. This agency contributed to a billion dollars in savings last year on savings last year on regulations. And it’s regulation that hasn’t gone away, it’s regulations provided certainty.
PRUITT: So it’s protecting the environment but also providing cost savings. And on the other issue look I do believe that if we do our work Ed, if we’re focused on these types of things, they are transformational and any time that you do transformational things, there are critics and there are people that come against you in that regard. Because this place has been – look it’s been in place for years that has been used by the left – the environmental left to advance an agenda of picking winners and losers in the market place.
HENRY: So but you’re saying you’re in trouble because the left --
PRUITT: I didn’t say that I was in trouble. I said there will be critics.
HENRY: OK so why did you then accept $50 dollars a night to rent a condo from the wife of the Washington lobbyist?
PRUITT: Well let’s talk about that because that individual that owned that apartment is in Oklahoma. I’ve know that person for years. The ethics --
PRUITT: The ethics --
HENRY: He said that he doesn’t know you that well --
PRUITT: Yes that’s not what said. He said he saw me at the prayer breakfast recently but I’ve know Steve for several years. The point of it is this, the ethics officials here at this agency reviewed the lease, reviewed the terms of the lease.
HENRY: When did they review it?
PRUITT: They reviewed at this year --
HENRY: March of this year? Right after you’d moved out?
PRUITT: But that’s what is important. They reviewed the terms of the lease Ed.
HENRY: After the fact.
PRUITT: And let me finish, if I can. They reviewed the terms of the lease and this is a situation, Ed, I was living out of a suitcase when I transitioned to Washington D.C. My wife was not with me. My children were not with me. My dog was not with me and, literally, I was traveling -- what’s interesting about this criticism, these fame individuals that are criticizing this, criticized me for being gone too much, traveling throughout the country. So, you can’t have it both ways, but let me finish.
HENRY: Every cabinet member comes here--
PRUITT: Nope, but look.
HENRY: -- and they’re living out of a suitcase, but --
PRUITT: That’s not the case.
HENRY: -- at the actual rate.
PRUITT: Yes, this is the actual rate and that’s what the ethics official said and let me say this to you.
HENRY: Rengongold (ph) is a website that looks at that and the average rent in Washington is over $2,000.
PRUITT: Not for what I rented – not for what I rented. This is like an Air B&B situation, Ed.
HENRY: It’s like a block from the capital.
PRUITT: It was like an Air B&B situation. When I was not there, the landlord, they had access to the entirety of the facility. When I was there, I only had access to a room. There were common areas. They used the facility at the same time that I was there. So, this was.
HENRY: You only (inaudible) rent when you were there.
PRUITT: That’s exactly right.
HENRY: But that’s kind of a sweetheart deal because--
PRUITT: No, it’s not.
HENRY: -- your house in Oklahoma. You pay a mortgage on that, and when you don’t--
PRUITT: Well, unfortunately, yes.
HENRY: -- yes, when you don’t sleep there, you still pay the mortgage, right?
PRUITT: Not when I’m not using – I mean yes, but this is a tremendous difference. I wasn’t using the facility, Ed, when I wasn’t there and that was--
HENRY: But if I pay rent in Washington, over $2,000 a month for a one bedroom apartment, that’s the average according to various websites and just common sense around--
PRUITT: And there were comps done, Ed, there were comps done by--
PRUITT: -- ethics officials here. There were comps done. If you can go – you could go on Craigslist today, it’s been done in the last week--
PRUITT: Craigslist, today, shows rentals for one bedroom of less than $1,000.
HENRY: I’ve never heard of an apartment like that. I’ve lived in Washington for over 25 years.
PRUITT: Yes, well that is something that again has been reviewed by ethic officials here, they’ve said that it’s market rate, that’s been – these are career ethics officials Ed.
HENRY: But the lease said that in March of this year after you’ve moved out right?
PRUITT: I moved out of this place last summer.
PRUITT: I was only there a few months.
HENRY: (inaudible) ethics record this year.
PRUITT: Because there was a question made about whether it was ethical or not. So, what--
HENRY: Why can’t you get it on the way in?
PRUITT: -- but let me ask you this, why does it matter when the ethics officials look a the lease and the terms lease to determine whether it was ethical or not.
HENRY: It doesn’t matter, it’s because you’re renting it from the wife of a lobbyist.
PRUITT: Yes, who had no business before this agency.
HENRY: Hold on a second.
PRUITT: They had no business.
HENRY: So, in part, is that Lantz and Jenson (ph), right? Major lobbying firm ExxonMobil is a client.
PRUITT: Mr. Heart has no client--
HENRY: ExxonMobil had business before (inaudible).
PRUITT: Mr. Hart has no clients that had business before this agency.
HENRY: ExxonMobil has no (inaudible).
PRUITT: His firm – he’s a member of a law firm, to take his relationship and extend it--
HENRY: You’re not answering the question.
PRUITT: -- extend it to third parties.
HENRY: Did ExxonMobil have business before (inaudible)?
PRUITT: To extend it to third parties in his firm, it is absolutely a stretch. But, Ed, let me say this to you. You asked me whether this is about the toxicity in Washington D.C.
PRUITT: And I will tell you this, it’s about the mission that we’re engaged in here. And this arrangement is, again, been signed off, as I’ve indicated to you, and it’s--
HENRY: After you moved out.
PRUITT: -- it’s been stated by the ethics officials here, career ethics officials, this individual doesn’t have clients, they had business before this agency. And, at the same time, we are doing these very important things and the criticism, I think, this is just one of things that people bring up (inaudible).
HENRY: OK, you still haven’t answered if ExxonMobil had business before you.
PRUITT: The firm.
HENRY: Millions if not billions, (inaudible).
PRUITT: Steve Hart does not represent ExxonMobil.
HENRY: OK, his firm also has – if – I hope this pronounces right, Cheniere Energy--
PRUITT: It is.
HENRY: ...natural gas production.
PRUITT: To my understanding, they don’t represent them, at this point.
HENRY: They have.
PRUITT: Steve, but again, Steve has never represented them.
HENRY: So, I asked you before and you didn’t answer answered.
PRUITT: Well, (inaudible) to answer, but.
HENRY: Do you take responsibility for any mistakes you’ve made?
PRUITT: If you look at this situation, Ed, absolutely it’s something that was done the right way, there’s a lease in place, it was fair market valued and it’s been shown as such.
HENRY: It’s not been at market price. (inaudible)--
PRUITT: It is, it absolutely is.
HENRY: -- can go to any website that looks at it. So, $2,000 a month for one bedroom.
PRUITT: Yes, we paid $1500 a month--
HENRY: Right, so, (less than $2,000).
PRUITT: -- for use of one room, when I was there.
PRUITT: And the rest of the space was common area, Ed.
PRUITT: So, that is dramatically different than you pointing at a two bedroom or one bedroom apartment--
HENRY: No, one bedroom (inaudible).
PRUITT: -- whatever it is. When you point to an apartment on Capitol Hill and use those kinds of numbers, it isn’t apples – it’s not apples to apples.
HENRY: I didn’t (inaudible).
PRUITT: You’re not being fair, with respect to the comparison.
HENRY: Didn’t President Trump say he was going to drain the swamp?
PRUITT: And we – well, let me ask you this. Is a billion dollars in savings draining the swamp?
HENRY: Well, (inaudible).
PRUITT: In regulations?
PRUITT: As you look across the administration, $8 billion in cost and deregulation absolutely is draining the swamp.
HENRY: So, you save a lot money and you also spend a lot of money. You went to Morocco with seven staffers.
PRUITT: As a part of it – you know, that we had the career EPA officials there a week before, working on a--