EPA chief Scott Pruitt spent $10,000 redecorating his office

EPA chief Scott Pruitt spent $10,000 redecorating his office with Smithsonian artwork and a refurbished desk

Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt spent nearly $10,000 decorating his office with paintings from the Smithsonian, a refurbished desk, and framed items, it has been reported.

The EPA paid the Smithsonian Institution $1,950 so that it would deliver three paintings loaned to Pruitt’s executive office suite.

The agency also spent $2,500 to frame a number of items, including a picture of Pruitt, President , and an American flag.

Pruitt’s agency also paid $2,963 for a standing ‘captain’s’ desk.

The expenditures were reported by , which cites internal documents obtained from an EPA staffer.

The EPA did not have to pay the Smithsonian for the paintings, which are on loan, but it did need to cover expenses for labor and delivery.

Two of the paintings are portraits depicting Founding Fathers John Marshall and James Monroe.

The other work of art is by William Louis Sontag Sr.

It is not unusual for federal agencies and the president to ask the Smithsonian to hang paintings at no cost.

Congress allows federal agencies up to $5,000 in spending for office redecoration. Any amount exceeding the limit needs to first get approval from lawmakers.

A spokesperson for the EPA, Jahan Wilcox, denied that Pruitt exceeded the $5,000 limit.

He said that the desk was refurbished by the Office of Administration and Resources Management at no cost to the agency.

Wilcox also said that the $1,200 painting and a $916.15 American flag wee put in a ‘lobby’ though he wouldn’t say if the ‘lobby’ was part of Pruitt’s office suite.

Two other framed items – the certificates from Pruitt’s confirmation – are a standard expenditure for the head of the EPA, according to Wilcox.

‘Every cabinet official gets $5,000 to furnish their office and we have spent $4,984.06,’ Wilcox said.

The Hill report confirms earlier claims by an EPA whistleblower who testified before Congress about Pruitt’s spending habits.

Kevin Chmielewski, who Trump lauded as a ‘champ‘ on the campaign trail, served as a Trump campaign aide and got installed as a top political appointee at EPA, serving as the deputy chief of staff for operations at EPA.

Last month, he told all about the array of inappropriate conduct he says he witnessed while serving under Pruitt – including his approval for a longtime female aide to accompany him first class on an international trip ‘without legal justification,‘ travel destinations dictated by a ‘desire to visit particular cities,‘ excessive security spending, and lavish hotels that weren‘t recommended by embassies.

Oversight Committee Democrats, led by Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, Reps. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, and Don Beyer of Virginia, Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, laid out the full range on his charges in a letter to President Trump and a separate letter to Pruitt himself.

According to their summary of their meeting with Chmielewski, he directly contradicts Pruitt‘s claim that he didn‘t know about the big raises that went to top Pruitt staffers from Oklahoma. It was ‘100 per cent Pruitt himself,‘ Chmielewski said.

The letter said Pruit spent ‘well beyond the $5,000 allowed by law to decorate your office, including refinishing an antique desk, purchasing an additional standing desk, paying leases for art on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, framing an 8×10 foot United States flag, and building a $43,000 soundproof booth.’

Chmielewski told The Hill he was personally responsible for getting various items for Pruitt’s office.

He said Pruitt promised to personally reimburse the EPA for the framed photo of him and the president, which also includes the pen Trump used to sign an executive order on environmental regulations.

‘The framed photo of himself was supposed to be paid out of his pocket with 100 percent certainty,’ Chmielewski said.

‘Here‘s the irony of that, he’s going to want that after he leaves EPA. That’s why I thought it was no big deal he said that he’d pay for it.’

The captain’s desk and the framed flag were put in the waiting area of Pruitt’s executive suite, according to Chmielewski.

Last month, the Government Accountability Office said that the EPA broke the law by approving a $43,000 soundproof phone booth last year for Pruitt’s office.

The EPA also violated the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits federal agencies from incurring expenses in excess of funds available in appropriations, the congressional watchdog said.

The agency under Pruitt‘s watch continues to be dogged by scandal and negative headlines.

A reporter for The Associated Press was grabbed by the shoulders and shoved out of an EPA building by a security guard Tuesday for trying to cover a meeting on water contaminants in which some reporters were welcomed and others were not.

An aide to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt later called to apologize to AP reporter Ellen Knickmeyer and said the incident is being looked into. 

Knickmeyer, who said she was not hurt, was later let into the meeting when the EPA reversed course and opened it to all reporters.

Representatives from CNN and E&E News, which covers energy and environment issues, were also initially barred from the meeting.