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Lobbyist tied to condo rented by EPA chief Scott Pruitt speaks out

EPA chief Scott Pruitt under scrutiny

The lobbyist whose wife owns the condo Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt lived in last year is speaking out, insisting that "any suggestion" that Pruitt's rental resulted in "undue influence" for his firm or clients with business before the EPA is "simply false."

Steven Hart made the statement to Politico's Playbook in a newsletter published Friday morning. Pruitt rented a room in the condo owned by Vicki Hart for five and a half months last year, paying $50 a night only on the nights he was in town. Steven Hart, who works for the firm Williams & Jensen, was on a team of lobbyists at his firm that reported lobbying Pruitt's EPA, according to Senate lobbying records reviewed by CBS News. 

The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs in a news release confirmed that the owner of the condo did not have a basic business license to rent out the room, as required by law. The D.C. agency issued an infraction notice, which carries a potential fine of $2,034.

The story about Pruitt's condo — compounded with reports that his top aides were set to receive bonuses of $28,000 and $56,000, that key EPA staffers had job changes after voicing complaints about Pruitt's actions, and that the lead agent on Pruitt's security detail was reassigned shortly after informing Pruitt that lights and sirens cannot be used in non-emergency travel situations — have placed Pruitt in the unwanted spotlight. 

"Williams & Jensen has always been committed to delivering exceptional client service with the highest ethical standards of professional conduct, so I take this matter very seriously and I regret that recent news reports could have created even a mere appearance that could call into question that forty year commitment," Steven Hart said in the statement published by Politico's Playbook. 

"As I have stated previously, the condominium is not owned by Williams & Jensen, its partners, or any other employees of the firm, and any suggestion that Administrator Pruitt's short-term rental of one of its bedrooms in 2017 resulted in undue influence for the firm or its clients with business before the EPA is simply false," he continued." I am confident in these facts, and certain that all fair and impartial assessments of the matter will conclude accordingly. Finally, I apologize to my wife, Vicki, whose fantastic career is being maligned unnecessarily."

Mr. Trump on Thursday called Pruitt "very courageous" and praised his accomplishments at the EPA.

"I think he's done a fantastic job," Mr. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One during his trip back from West Virginia. "I think he's done an incredible job. He's been very courageous. It hasn't been easy, but I think he's done a fantastic job."

The White House is reviewing Pruitt's actions. Mr. Trump said he would "have to look" at the reports about his EPA administrator.