EPA Chief's Latest Ethics Issue: Used Mattress From A Trump Hotel The aide said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt asked for help procuring a mattress while he was apartment hunting. Federal ethics rules prohibit staff from doing private work for their superiors.
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EPA Chief's Latest Ethics Issue: Used Mattress From A Trump Hotel

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EPA Chief's Latest Ethics Issue: Used Mattress From A Trump Hotel

EPA Chief's Latest Ethics Issue: Used Mattress From A Trump Hotel

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Scott Pruitt and other top officials of the Environmental Protection Agency are the subjects of about a dozen ethics investigations. And now there's a new question involving a used mattress from President Trump's hotel near the White House. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: This story comes from a session last month, when investigators from the House Oversight Committee interviewed Millan Hupp. She's Pruitt's director of scheduling and advance. The investigators wanted to know about unpaid work she had done for Pruitt and his wife. There were an unexplained phone call and email from Hupp to an employee of Trump's hotel.

Question: Do you recall why you would have reached out to him?

Answer: I do not recall sending this email. But I do recall there being discussions about the possibility of securing an old mattress from the Trump hotel.

Hupp said she never found that mattress for her boss. She said maybe he wanted it because he and his wife were apartment hunting, which is another unpaid job Hupp was doing for Pruitt. Pruitt told a Senate hearing last month that Hupp did the apartment hunting as a favor. He said it had nothing to do with a big raise he gave her.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SCOTT PRUITT: And the individual that you're referring to is a longtime friend of my wife and myself. So to link any type of review on a pay increase is just simply not substantiated.

OVERBY: Under federal ethics rules, employees can't do personal work for their bosses. They obviously can't do it on government time. And if they use private time, it's a prohibited gift. The mattress episode is public now because two Democratic congressmen have cited it as evidence the House Oversight Committee needs to subpoena documents that EPA is withholding. EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said the agency is working diligently with the committee. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders got a question about the mattress at yesterday's press briefing. She had to suppress a smile.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS BRIEFING)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Certainly looking into the matter. I couldn't comment on the specifics of the furniture used in his apartment. John.

(LAUGHTER)

OVERBY: But with all those investigations, Pruitt is under real pressure. At the Senate hearing last month, Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said he had heard Pruitt was getting a legal defense fund.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Is that true?

PRUITT: I understand that that's being set up, yes.

VAN HOLLEN: OK. So you're in the process of setting that up?

PRUITT: It's been set up.

OVERBY: It's the seventh legal defense fund created to help aides and allies of President Trump.

Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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