WASHINGTON (AP) - Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt laughed off questions Wednesday about whether he used his office to try to help his wife get a “business opportunity” with Chick-fil-A, while a close aide abruptly resigned amid new ethics allegations against her boss.
Pruitt said in a statement that his scheduler, Millan Hupp, had resigned. It came two days after Democratic lawmakers made public her testimony to a House oversight panel that Pruitt had her do personal errands for him, including inquiring about buying a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel.
Despite the mounting scandals, President Donald Trump continues to stand by Pruitt and lavished praise on him at a hurricane-preparedness briefing attended by Cabinet secretaries and agency heads.
“EPA is doing really, really well,” Trump told Pruitt on Wednesday. “And you know, somebody has to say that about you a little bit. You know that, Scott. But you have done - I tell you, the EPA is doing so well. … And people are really impressed with the job that’s being done at the EPA. Thank you very much, Scott.”
The 26-year-old Hupp, described by former staffers as one of Pruitt’s closest and most loyal staffers, told the House panel that Pruitt had her ask about getting a mattress from the Trump International Hotel.
Federal ethics codes prohibit having staffers conduct personal errands and bar officials from using their position for private gain.Pruitt, in appearances before congressional panels this spring, has repeatedly blamed subordinates for his alleged ethical lapses. Three other senior Pruitt staffers resigned earlier this spring.Earlier Wednesday, Pruitt laughed when asked about new reports that he used his position as an agency head to try to get a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife.“I mean, look, my wife is an entrepreneur herself. I love, she loves, we love Chick-fil-A as a franchise of faith,” he told a reporter for Nexstar Media Group, which owns local television stations around the country. He said more are needed in his hometown of Tulsa,