Live

Watch CBSN Live

EPA officials demoted, removed after voicing complaints about Scott Pruitt: Report

Scott Pruitt in the spotlight

At least five officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were demoted, removed, reassigned, put on leave or asked for new jobs after voicing concerns about embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the New York Times reported Thursday.

Pruitt is in hot water after dominating the news cycle this week with reports that he lived in a condo belonging to the wife of a lobbyist, and that two of his top aides received hefty raises. Those stories follow others from earlier this year about Pruitt's expensive travel. CBS News' Julianna Goldman also reported Thursday that the agent in charge of Pruitt's security detail was reassigned shortly after objecting to Pruitt's desire to use sirens and lights when there was traffic, and he was late to a business meeting. 

The New York Times reported that some EPA officials objected to office furniture spending, first-class travel, and additional security coverage — including a 20-person protective detail. One of the officials, political appointee Kevin Chmielewski, was placed on administrative leave without pay, the Times reported, citing two people familiar with the situation. Chmielewski, the Times reported, had voiced some of his concerns about Pruitt to the White House's presidential personnel office. 

Two other officials, career officials Reginald Allen and Eric Weese, were placed in jobs where they had less authority in spending decisions and interaction with the administrator when they expressed their concerns, the Times reported. And another career official, John Reeder, took a position with American University after the EPA told him to take a new job, according to the Times.

A spokesman for the EPA disputed the Times' version of events.

"This is a group of disgruntled employees who have either been dismissed or reassigned," said EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox.

Wilcox also responded to a New York Times story claiming Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, is considering leaving.

"EPA Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson, is committed to advancing President Trump's agenda of regulatory certainty and environmental stewardship and continues to do so under Administrator Pruitt's leadership," Wilcox said. 

Stories about Pruitt have made headlines since last week, when ABC News first reported Pruitt last year lived in a condo belonging to the wife of a Washington lobbyist. As CBS News has reported, the condo cost Pruitt $50 a night, and he only paid for nights when he was in town. Pruitt has insisted the arrangement was signed off on by an ethics official. In an interview with Fox News' Ed Henry Thursday night, Pruitt also addressed a report from The Atlantic that two staff members received hefty salary increases. Pruitt blamed whoever made that decision to give the raises, which he said he knew nothing about at the time, and said he had fixed the problem. 

"I'm fixing the problem," Pruitt told Henry.

An EPA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Mr. Trump, at least publicly, is standing by Pruitt. The White House is reviewing Pruitt's actions.

On Air Force One heading from West Virginia to Washington, D.C., Thursday, Mr. Trump called Pruitt a "good man."

"I have to look at them," Mr. Trump said of the claims against Pruitt. "...I'll make that determination. But he's a good man, he's done a terrific job. But I'll take a look at it."

View CBS News In