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EPA chief Scott Pruitt met with lobbyist who rented him condo

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks during a meeting held by U.S. President Donald Trump on infrastructure at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 12, 2018.

Reuters

EPA chief Scott Pruitt met with lobbyist Steven Hart, who rented Pruitt a condo in Washington, D.C., for $50 a night, CBS News' Jacqueline Alemany has confirmed. Earlier statements had indicated Hart did not lobby the EPA.

On Friday, Hart's lobbying firm, Williams & Jensen, revealed in a filing that Hart was a registered lobbyist for Smithfield Foods in the first quarter of 2018. According to emails obtained by CBS News, Hart and Smithfield Foods executive Dennis Treacy met with Pruitt in July 2017.

Last month, it came out that Pruitt was living in the $50-a-night condo on Capitol Hill. Pruitt's rent equates to about $1,500 a month, but the terms of the deal were favorable. The deal required Pruitt only to pay the nightly rate when he stayed there, and he was not charged for nights when he slept elsewhere. Pruitt traveled regularly, often returning to Oklahoma on the weekends.

Documents released by the agency confirm that ethics officials at the EPA signed off on the arrangement. Over the course of the five and a half months, Pruitt paid $6,100 in rent, about $2,150 less than someone paying his rate every night. 

But Pruitt wasn't the only tenant. His daughter also stayed at the condo while she was interning at the White House. An official said Pruitt paid rent for nights his daughter was there even if he was not. The terms of the lease permitted Pruitt's family members to stay in the apartment, according to the ethics document. 

Pruitt intended to use the apartment for only a few weeks while he was getting settled in Washington. He ended up staying more than five months. In August, Pruitt moved to an apartment at 14th and U Street. He now lives in an apartment near Trader Joe's on Capitol Hill.

"As EPA career ethics officials stated in a memo, Administrator Pruitt's housing arrangement for both himself and family was not a gift and the lease was consistent with federal ethics regulations," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told CBS News in March. 

Pruitt has made headlines recently not only for the condo, but also spending public funds to travel abroad, authorizing substantial pay raises for a pair of young aides without White House approval, and the behavior of his security detail.  

On Friday, CBS News learned that the EPA spent $43,000 to build a "secure phone booth" for Pruitt. The documents show that the project started soliciting bids at an estimated $13,500 last summer. It eventually cost $43,000, which included painting, floor and ceiling work and prepping the room. Presented with four pricing options ranging between $20,560 and $24,570, career officials chose the most expensively priced because it included "expedited materials and working outside regular business hours."