EPA’s Pruitt under fire for asking Trump donor to hire his wife
WASHINGTON — Embattled Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt enlisted a staffer to work with key Republican donors — including a top Trump supporter from Dallas — to find a job for his wife, according to a new report.
The talks may have led to Marlyn Pruitt landing a temporary role with the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, according to the Washington Post, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, and has raised new questions about Pruitt’s use of his official role for personal gain.
Though the Dallas donor, Doug Deason, cited conflicts of interest in turning down Pruitt’s request to hire Marlyn Pruitt, on Wednesday he defended the administrator’s inquiry as “reasonable” and downplayed the former EPA staffer’s role in those talks.
Deason, who with his father, Darwin, has close ties to the Trump administration, was among those who championed the former attorney general of Oklahoma for the EPA position. He also helped select members for an EPA Science Advisory Board last year.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News on Wednesday, Deason said he and Pruitt spoke “friend to friend” about employment opportunities for his wife in late 2016.
At the time, Pruitt was on President Donald Trump’s shortlist to become the head of the environmental agency and was contemplating the financial realities of a move to Washington while maintaining the couple’s home in Tulsa, Deason said.
“It was a perfectly reasonable thing to ask,” Deason said, adding that Marlyn had been a stayat-home mother and “he was going to need her to go back to work to supplement the family income” if he was confirmed.
The Dallas businessman confirmed that he did not hire Marlyn Pruitt because his company, Deason Capital Services, has stake in the oil and gas company Foreland Resources, which falls under the agency’s purview. Deason said he told Pruitt that he’d help brainstorm other opportunities for his wife.
He confirmed that, as part of those talks, he corresponded with Samantha Dravis, who was Pruitt’s adviser during the nomination process and later served as associate administrator for the EPA’s Office of Policy. He also spoke with Pruitt’s outside counsel, Cleta Mitchell, about the matter.
Mitchell nor Dravis, who left the EPA in April, could be immediately reached for comment on Wednesday.
Virginia Canter, executive branch ethics counsel for the public watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the Post that tapping a full-time EPA employee to “become the headhunter for his spouse” was “highly inappropriate.”
A spokesman for the Judicial Crisis Network confirmed to the outlet that it employed Marlyn Pruitt, a former school nurse, “temporarily” as an independent contractor. Politico reports that she worked there from fall 2017 to spring 2018, though the organization hasn’t disclosed what she was paid.