EPA Violated Multiple Laws in Securing Scott Pruitt's Privacy Booth, GAO Finds

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A government watchdog agency concluded that the Environmental Protection Agency violated federal law in spending more than $43,000 to install a private phone booth in EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's office, according to a report obtained by ABC News.

The EPA was required to tell Congress before it purchased the phone booth, exceeding the $5,000 limit on decorating and furnishing Pruitt's office, but didn't. Because EPA used its appropriations in a manner specifically prohibited by law, EPA violated the Antideficiency Act.

EPA has said previously that Pruitt needed the privacy booth to make secure phone calls with President Donald Trump and other senior administration officials without fear of eavesdropping.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said the agency is "addressing GAO's concern, with regard to congressional notification about this expense, and will be sending Congress the necessary information this week".

Gowdy is also seeking documents from the EPA on the changes a year ago to round-the-clock security protection for Pruitt, contracts to sweep Pruitt's office for electronic surveillance, his trips to Italy and Morocco, and travel by Pruitt's security chief.

ABC News has reached out to the EPA for a response.

On Wednesday, the Republican oversight chairman had written to push for more answers from Pruitt about his first-class travels, and to say the committee plans to evaluate the $50-a-night rental the EPA head had with a lobbyist.

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The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the GAO decision.

They also inquired about a lease for a bedroom in a Capitol Hill condominium that Pruitt rented in 2017.

"Scott Pruitt likes to talk about returning the EPA to the rule of law, but it turns out he's better at breaking it than following it".

Republicans also criticized Pruitt after the latest round of ethical violations.

Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., sent the letter a day after lawmakers detailed allegations by the EPA's former deputy chief of staff for operations, Kevin Chmielewski, who told congressional staff about wasteful spending, unethical behavior and retribution at the agency for staffers who questioned the activity.

"It is critical that EPA and all federal agencies comply with notification requirements to Congress before spending tax payer dollars", Senator John Barrasso, a Republican, said in a statement.

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