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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.

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“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.”

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.

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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.

 
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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2020 Election

A historian of Nazi Germany explains why the divided opposition to Trump should terrify you

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As we witnessed in the third Democratic primary debate last week, Democratic presidential candidates are struggling to distinguish themselves from their party rivals and competing for endorsements. Their horizontal vision in these disagreements diverts their gaze from the peril we face as Donald Trump dismantles the norms that have guided our political life since 1776.

Whatever their differences, Democratic candidates must agree to broad principles related to key issues, for example, immigration, health care, and the growing wealth gap. A general consensus would leave plenty of room for healthy debates about implementation, but failure to emphasize shared ideals in relationship to two or three major questions will blunt Democrats’ offensive against a candidate whose campaign is based on slander and fear.

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2020 Election

Trump’s longshot bid to win New Mexico has political leaders baffled: ‘He’s a batsh*t racist’

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Despite losing New Mexico by eight points in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump and his campaign manager Brad Pascale are making big plans to win the state in 2020 -- and that has political observers baffled.

With Trump appearing in New Mexico on Monday night, Politico reports the president has his work cut out for him in a state that saw the GOP lose the governorship and one House seat in 2018.

"The Land of Enchantment has voted for a Republican presidential candidate only once since 1992. With a considerable nonwhite voter population and all-Democratic congressional delegation, it’s not exactly fertile ground for a surprise GOP victory," the report notes before adding that Parscale feels they can make inroads this go-around.

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Commentary

Why won’t the Democrats talk openly about impeachment?

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The ABC/Univision Democratic debate last week ran a bit more smoothly than the previous two, even managing to squeeze in a decent discussion on climate change and Afghanistan policy. These events are always more theater than substance, particularly with so many people on the stage. But early debates in the primary season are where engaged partisan voters outside the early states get a chance to see the larger field of candidates and develop a sense of where the party's center of gravity is in the current election cycle.

This article was originally published at Salon

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