Federal Investigators: Pruitt's $43000 Soundproof Booth In EPA Office Violated Law

EPA Administrator-designate Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Capitol Hill at his confirmation hearing in 2017

The agency violated the law by using more than $5,000 of fiscal 2017 appropriated funds for an unintended goal without giving lawmakers advance notice, GAO investigators wrote in a report released Monday.

The EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"The privacy booth is analogous to other functional functional items an employee might require to perform his job duties such as a high speed computer, high speed copier/scanner, or television", the EPA letter said. Thus, the booth was a practical addition to the administrator's office and did not violate the specific appropriations law provision since it was not "an aesthetic improvement" contemplated by that measure, according to the agency.

Gowdy on Friday sent a letter to Pruitt requesting more documents relating to his travel and his controversial housing situation.

"Today's GAO report is the latest proof of the rampant corruption and misconduct at the Environmental Protection Agency under Administrator Pruitt", Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, said in a statement. The total price of around $43,000 included renovations to prepare space for the booth, including removing a closed circuit camera system.

"A classified phone can not simply be put on an office desk or in a conference room", EPA said.

In its explanation to the GAO included in the report, the EPA equated the booth to other necessary office supplies and argued it was needed to "support specific mission requirements" and allow Pruitt to carry out agency business "without concern that classified, deliberative, privileged, or sensitive information might inadvertently be disclosed to those who are not meant to receive such information".

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Back in December, Pruitt told the House Energy and Commerce Committee he needed the equipment to conduct secure conversations with White House officials.

The room, known elsewhere in government as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or SCIF, is typically used for reading and meetings involving classified information.

"It's simple: Pruitt broke the law, and no amount of excuses can save him now", Brune added.

"We draw no conclusions regarding whether the installation of the privacy booth was the only, or the best, way for EPA to provide a secure telephone line for the Administrator", he wrote.

The Government Accountability Office said EPA failed to comply with a law prohibiting a government agency from spending more than $5,000 in federal funds to furnish or redecorate an office of a presidential appointee such as Pruitt without first notifying congressional appropriations committees.

GAO General Counsel Thomas Armstrong released the agency's legal opinion in a letter to Sens.

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