EPA officials sidelined or demoted after raising concerns about Pruitt

Multiple senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were sidelined or demoted after they pushed back on ...

Posted: Apr 6, 2018 12:27 PM
Updated: Apr 6, 2018 12:27 PM

Multiple senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were sidelined or demoted after they pushed back on or raised concerns about Administrator Scott Pruitt's pricey travel, office spending and management of the agency, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN.

Pruitt's international travel, frequent trips to his home state of Oklahoma and exorbitant office expenditures have drawn concerns from ethics experts and yielded headlines for months, but two sources familiar with the matter said they could have been avoided had Pruitt heeded the advice of multiple EPA officials -- both career officials and political appointees. Instead, the sources said, the officials who disagreed with Pruitt were iced out, reassigned or demoted.

Kevin Chmielewski, who was one of the longest-serving top advance officials on President Donald Trump's campaign, was stripped of his work phone and ID card and placed on administrative leave, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said. He had previously served as a deputy chief of staff for operations.

Two career officials were also pushed aside, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said. John Reeder was moved to American University as an "executive in residence" after clashing with Pruitt. His deputy who succeeded him as acting deputy chief of staff, Reginald Allen, was effectively demoted.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox disputed the allegations and said in a statement: "This is a group of disgruntled employees who have either been dismissed or reassigned."

Chmielewski and Allen declined to comment. Reeder did not respond to requests for comment.

The three officials had raised concerns about Pruitt's spending with him or his top aides. Two sources familiar with the matter said the actions taken against the employees fit a pattern of Pruitt sidelining officials who disagreed with him in favor of surrounding himself with those who would approve of his decisions.

The New York Times first reported on these actions Thursday afternoon.

Some costly items that were considered but faced pushback included a $100,000-a-month air charter membership, a $70,000 bulletproof desk replacement and a refurbished desk that cost more than $2,000.

Other concerns centered on international trips Pruitt took related to official visits but that involved mostly leisure time, including to Italy and Morocco; the first-class travel he sought for some of his top deputies; the frequency of his travel home to Oklahoma; and spending on furnishings for his office, among other issues.

The concerns add to a growing list of ethics issues that have swirled around Pruitt, raising further questions about his future as head of the EPA, where his deregulatory actions have pleased Trump. Top White House officials have grown frustrated with Pruitt, but while White House chief of staff John Kelly advocated for his firing, Trump has so far continued to back Pruitt.

Top officials at the EPA initially demanded Chmielewski's resignation but did not fire him, instead placing him on unpaid administrative leave, an uncertain limbo. He was placed on leave after he returned from a trip to Japan with Vice President Mike Pence, where he filled in as an advance official.

While Pruitt has suggested he has faced criticism for his actions because Democrats are seeking to undermine him, the friction between him and Chmielewski suggests a broader concern. Chmielewski formed a personal bond with Trump during the 2016 campaign as one of his senior advance officials, helping to set up the rallies that drew massive crowds Trump reveled in.

When Trump held a rally in Chmielewski's hometown, he asked him to join him onstage and called him a "star."

In addition, CNN's Rene Marsh has confirmed that Special Agent Eric Weese, who worked on Pruitt's protection team, was demoted when he refused to drive with lights and sirens blaring through the streets of Washington, according to three sources with knowledge of the situation.

Pruitt has come under increasing fire as reports steadily uncover extensive spending on travel and other potentially major ethical lapses, including an agreement to rent a room in Washington for only $50 a night from a lobbyist couple whose firm lobbies the EPA.

Trump on Thursday said he still had confidence in Pruitt, and CNN reported Thursday that as recently as this week, the President floated having Pruitt replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Samantha Dravis, a top aide to Pruitt at the EPA, said earlier Thursday that she was resigning.

West Lafayette
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 85°
Kokomo
Clear
85° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 84°
Rensselaer
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 83°
Fowler
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 85°
Williamsport
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 86°
Crawfordsville
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 83°
Frankfort
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 83°
Delphi
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Monticello
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 84°
Logansport
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 84°
Warm and windy with plenty of sunshine!
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events