The administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is under fire for a reason that may leave some readers cringing. On Monday, Politico reported two Democrats on the House Oversight Committee demanded that Scott Pruitt's communication documents be subpoenaed for review. That demand came after a staffer for Pruitt, Milan Hupp, said Pruitt requested an "old mattress" from Trump International Hotel, among other personal errands.
According to a letter from Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Hupp said that Pruitt asked her to find an used mattress from the Trump International Hotel, but that she didn't know why he wanted such a mattress — or if he even bought one. Additionally, Democrats are looking to understand whether Pruitt used Hupp for personal house-hunting purposes on public office time. Democrats say that Pruitt may have violated federal employee code.
"If Ms. Hupp’s statements to the Committee are accurate, Administrator Pruitt crossed a very clear line and must be held accountable," the House Democrats said in a joint statement. "Federal ethics laws prohibit Administrator Pruitt from using his official position for personal gain and from requesting and accepting services from a subordinate employee that are not part of that employee’s official duties."
But there has been some pushback. A spokeswoman for the committee released a statement:
Selectively releasing portions of witness interview transcripts damages the credibility of our investigation and discourages future witnesses from coming forward. The Committee will continue conducting a serious, fact-driven investigation, and therefore will wait until the conclusion of our investigation to release our findings.
The White House, too, has said that it was "certainly looking into the matter." On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders noted, "I couldn't comment on the specifics of the furniture used in his apartment."
With such controversy surrounding Pruitt, some observers may think that that the EPA administrator is on tricky terrain and could even lose his job. But if past remarks can indicate anything about his job status, Pruitt seems to be doing OK in the eyes of the president. In May, when asked whether he had any confidence in Pruitt, Donald Trump nodded, "I do."
It's that kind of apparent faith in Pruitt that seems to have his back while House Democrats turn up the heat on him. But on social media, reports about an apparent request for an "old mattress" have cause humorous criticism and disbelief. "Why would Scott Pruitt need a used Trump Hotel mattress when he could have America's favorite mattress — Casper —shipped directly to him in a box the size of a mini-fridge? (Use offer code PRUITT for 10 percent off your next mattress order)," one Twitter user joked.
Reports about Pruitt reportedly seeking a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel arrives almost a month after Democrat Sen. Tom Udall grilled Pruitt over his aide Hupp.
In May, Udall asked Pruitt about his aide house-hunting for him, "Did your staff contact realtors and arrange tours for you during work hours, yes or no?" Instead of answering in a direct yes or no, Pruitt avoided definitive statements, and said, "It’s my understanding that all activity there was on personal time, and the individual that you are referring to is a longtime friend of my wife, and myself."
It doesn't look like the tension will dissipate any time soon. At this moment, the EPA says that it is working to meet the House Oversight Committee's demands. EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox released a statement, "We are working diligently with Chairman [Trey] Gowdy and are in full cooperation in providing the Committee with the necessary documents, travel vouchers, receipts, and witnesses to his inquiries."