Scott Pruitt, meet Richard Windsor.
Two Democratic senators said EPA Administrator Pruitt has been using three different “secret” epa.gov email accounts in addition to his official address and have asked the agency’s inspector general to look into the matter.
The allegation evokes memories of former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s use of a second email address to correspond with people outside the agency. Jackson, who served under former President Barack Obama, used the alias “Richard Windsor” — apparently a name borrowed from a family dog.
Jackson’s email habits drew fiery condemnation on Capitol Hill, with House Republicans grilling her about the alias in a 2013 Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing nearly a year after she’d left the EPA and entered private business working for Apple Inc. Republicans accused Jackson of using the account to bypass Freedom of Information Act requirements and shield her emails from the public.
It turns out Donald Trump’s EPA administrator may be up to the same thing, according to an April 10 letter from senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“With the use of multiple secret email accounts or addresses, we are concerned that the Office of the Administrator may be withholding information from the public in violation of valid FOIA requests,” the lawmakers wrote to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr. “Our offices have received information indicating that the Administrator uses three different secret epa.gov email addresses in addition to his official email address: Pruitt.Scott@epa.gov.”
EPA officials rejected any allegations of wrongdoing.
“When EPA receives a FOIA request concerning the administrator’s emails, all accounts associated are searched before we respond to that request,” Steve Fine, the agency’s acting chief information officer, said in a statement.
The agency said it has three email accounts attributed to Pruitt: one for use by staff for scheduling, another for public correspondence and a third for Pruitt. A fourth email account was created but never used beyond three test emails, according to the EPA.
The multiple email accounts add to the rapidly accumulating troubles for Pruitt, who is already under fire for renting a bedroom in a Capitol Hill condominium from a lobbyist, using an obscure law to grant large raises to two close advisers over White House objections and a pattern of retaliating against employees who didn’t go along with the moves.