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Two top US EPA staffers resign amid ongoing ethics probes

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Two high-level Environmental Protection Agency employees whose names have come up in ongoing probes into Administrator Scott Pruitt’s ethics and travel have resigned from the agency, the EPA confirmed on Tuesday.

Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent who served as the head of Pruitt’s security team, resigned on Monday, but said he will continue to cooperate in a U.S. House of Representatives investigation into his role in costly decisions around Pruitt’s security. ABC News first reported the resignation on Tuesday.

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Albert “Kell” Kelly, who ran the agency’s Superfund cleanup program, also announced his resignation, the EPA confirmed. Kelly was barred by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from working at any U.S. financial institution after unspecified violations while working at a bank in Oklahoma.

The resignations come just days after lawmakers grilled Pruitt in back-to-back hearings on reports of ethics violations, excessive spending on travel and security, close industry ties and the reassignment of agency whistleblowers who flagged concerns about high spending.

 
Those issues included the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in Pruitt’s office and the routine use of first-class flights – both of which EPA has argued were important to protecting Pruitt’s safety and privacy.

Pruitt praised both men for their work at EPA.

 
“Kell Kelly’s service at EPA will be sorely missed,” Pruitt said in a statement. “In just over a year he has made a tremendous impact on EPA’s Superfund program.”

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Pruitt said of Perrotta that he “selflessly served the American people for more than 23 years” as a Secret Service agent and under four EPA administrators. “I want to thank him for his service and wish him the very best in retirement.”

House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said on Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that his committee had scheduled interviews with Perrotta and other senior Pruitt aides this week.

He said the panel also received documents it requested from the EPA related to Pruitt and his staff’s use of first-class flights and a condo rental agreement between Pruitt and the wife of an industry lobbyist.

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President Donald Trump has not indicated whether the slew of scandals would affect Pruitt’s tenure.

Several Republicans in the House who have embraced Pruitt’s deregulatory agenda said Pruitt was unfairly grilled by Democrats regarding the scandals, but others said his answers to some key questions were vague.

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Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; editing by Jonathan Oatis


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Trump impeachment trial: 4 stories from first day spell doom for Mitch McConnell

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If the score was kept for the first day of the impeachment trial, it would show hefty losses for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

As Former Special Counsel for the Department of Defense, Ryan Goodman, pointed out, four major headlines perfectly reflect the cracks in the strangle-hold McConnell has had on his party.

First, McConnell was forced to change the impeachment hearing rules. After a huge uprising by Americans demanding to be able to watch the impeachment trial during normal human hours, senators told McConnell he'd lost the votes to hold proceedings after midnight.

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‘Disease fanboy’: Internet slams NBC conservative for ‘rooting for pandemic’ to distract from Trump impeachment trial

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Hugh Hewitt is once again under fire, this time for almost appearing to be glad a deadly SARS-related virus has been diagnosed in a patient in Washington state – saying additional diagnoses will take the focus away from the Senate's historic impeachment trial. Hewitt is a conservative Washington Post columnist, radio host, MSNBC and NBC contributor, and law professor who went from being a "Never-Trumper" to all-in for President Donald Trump.

"People care much more for their health than theater," said Hewitt via Twitter, referring to Trump's impeachment trial. The SARS-related virus, known as the Wuhan coronavirus, is named for an area of China where it was first found. It "has infected more than 300 people and killed six in an outbreak that has struck China, Thailand, South Korea, Japan and now the US," CNN reports.

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Greece elects first woman president

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Greece's parliament on Wednesday elected the first woman president in the country's history, a senior judge with an expertise in environmental and constitutional law.

A cross-party majority of 261 MPs voted in favour of 63-year-old Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou, parliament chief Costas Tassoulas said.

"Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou has been elected president of the republic," Tassoulas said.

The new president, until now the head of Greece's top administrative court, the Council of State, will take her oath of office on March 13, he added.

The daughter of a Supreme Court judge, Sakellaropoulou completed postgraduate studies at Paris's Sorbonne university.

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