In a striking twist of fate for the Trump administration, two Democratic Senators revealed that Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt's email accounts are being investigated. The Pruitt email investigation once again brings federal officials' email use into the forefront — something which, ironically, President Trump repeatedly focused on throughout his presidential campaign. Needless to say, Hillary Clinton's emails were a constant topic in his Twitter feed both before and after he was elected.
Pruitt, who has served as the agency's administrator since February 2017, has reportedly had four different email addresses during his tenure. Thus far, President Trump has not yet commented on the Pruitt email investigation. However, it remains to be seen whether he will maintain his silence for long, considering his penchant for email-related discussions.
According to the Associated Press, the EPA's inspector general, Arthur Elkins, confirmed the investigation into Pruitt's emails via a letter, saying that his office will take the lead on the matter. As the outlet noted, the original request for an investigation into Pruitt's emails came from Democratic Senators Jeffrey Merkley (Oregon) and Tom Carper (Delaware). The senators requested that the EPA look into whether Pruitt's use of multiple email accounts adheres to federal law and whether all of his accounts are referenced when the agency is responding to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
Pruitt's use of multiple email accounts was first made public in early April of this year. As the Washington Post reported on April 12, Pruitt's four email addresses are all agency addresses. Commenting on the issue back in April, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox asserted that all of Pruitt's accounts were searched when responding to FOIA requests, saying to the Post:
The EPA maintains three email accounts which are attributed to Administrator Pruitt: two are used by staff for calendaring and public correspondence; the third is used by the Administrator ... A fourth email account was created for use by the Administrator but was superseded and never used beyond three test emails. When we receive a FOIA request all accounts are searched before we respond to the FOIA request.
In its letter confirming the investigation, the EPA's inspector general noted that looking into whether all of Pruitt's accounts were searched when fulfilling FOIA requests does fall within its purview. However, the inspector general also noted that it does not know how soon it can begin its investigation, considering the EPA's time and budget constraints. The letter reported that the senators would be informed when the investigation has officially commenced.
Thus far, President Trump has not yet commented on the Pruitt email issue. In contrast, during his presidential campaign, Trump was incredibly vocal about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server during her tenure. Trump accused Clinton of obstructing justice and often referred to her as "crooked Hillary." He also repeatedly brought up her use of the email server during campaign speeches and presidential debates. Clinton was twice-cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by the FBI as it related to the private email server use, though the law enforcement agency did characterize her actions as "extremely careless."
Pruitt is not under investigation for use of a private email server, but, rather, use of multiple government email accounts. However, Trump's silence on the issue, considering his extensive commentary on Clinton's email use is perhaps, for some, a bit ironic.
In addition to the email investigation, Pruitt is also facing a host of other inquires into his actions during his tenure as EPA chief. The New York Times outlined many of these inquiries in an article from April 24, noting that Pruitt has also been accused of excessive spending while in office as well as having improper interactions with other energy industry officials. During a testimony he gave at a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing, Pruitt characterized many of these accusations as inaccurate, saying:
Much of what has been targeted towards me and my team has been half-truths or at best stories that have been so twisted that they do not resemble reality.
As the multiple inquiries into Pruitt continue to unfold, many on Capitol Hill will likely be closely watching to see if and how President Trump responds to their findings — and what implications these findings will have for Pruitt.