What to Watch as Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. Chief, Goes Before Congress

The congressional committees did not summon Mr. Pruitt with the specific intent of questioning him on his alleged misconduct. Rather, both events are routine budget hearings, held by the House panels with oversight over the E.P.A.’s spending and policy priorities.

But since so many of the allegations surrounding Mr. Pruitt have to do with his expenditures of agency money, an issue that has raised hackles in both parties, lawmakers are expected to question him aggressively on that spending and the questions of waste and ethics associated with it. It is expected that the chairman of the full House energy committee, Greg Walden of Oregon, and the ranking Democrat, Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, will attend the morning hearing.

While Mr. Walden is a conservative Republican, he appears ready to question Mr. Pruitt pointedly, saying this week, “He’s got some tough questions to answer.” In addition to questions of spending and ethics, Mr. Pallone is expected to push Mr. Pruitt on his many moves to roll back the Obama administration’s climate change policies.

The alleged infractions

Reports of ethical lapses and lavish spending have accumulated in recent weeks. Here is a primer on the 10 investigations into Mr. Pruitt’s activities, and a graphic that breaks down the categories of infractions.

The Government Accountability Office, a watchdog agency, concluded last week that Mr. Pruitt broke the law with a purchase of a $43,000 secure telephone booth for his office. Meanwhile, Mr. Pruitt is still under fire for extensive first-class travel, including two weeks of travel in June for the administrator and his aides that cost taxpayers more than $120,000, and for spending up to $3 million on security in his first year in office.

Separately, Mr. Pruitt is under scrutiny for a renting a condo from the wife of a lobbyist who had business before the E.P.A. In addition, Mr. Pruitt appears to have used unorthodox measures, and bypassed White House approval, to give substantial raises to favored political appointees.

Meanwhile, staff members who questioned those activities were sidelined or demoted.

How Mr. Pruitt is preparing

Mr. Pruitt knows he’ll come under fire, possibly for hours at a time, on Thursday. According to a talking points memo reviewed by The New York Times, Mr. Pruitt’s strategy appears to be to place the blame for his activities on his staff.

The memo suggests that Mr. Pruitt is prepared to say that he now flies coach when traveling; that others were responsible for giving two close aides who used to work for him in Oklahoma substantial pay raises; and that E.P.A. officials who were reassigned or demoted after challenging his spending all had performance issues.

How will Republicans treat him?

Upon taking office last year, Mr. Pruitt was hailed by Republicans as Mr. Trump’s “deregulation czar,” as he moved to strip away one environmental regulation after another. Even as questions about his spending on flights and security began to mount early this year, many conservative Republicans stood by him.

But in recent days that support has waned. In perhaps one of the most ominous signs for Mr. Pruitt, this week his longtime political patron and fellow Oklahoman, Senator James Inhofe, called for further investigations into the alleged infractions of his protégé. Republicans’ willingness to take off the kid gloves when aggressively questioning one of their former favorites could signal that Mr. Pruitt has lost support in nearly every quarter in Washington.

The White House reaction

It is Mr. Trump’s opinion of the E.P.A. administrator that matters most at the end of the day, and his Twitter account may offer insight into Mr. Pruitt’s fate. Two weeks ago, Mr. Trump tweeted his support of Mr. Pruitt, writing: “While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!”

On Wednesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president’s press secretary, said a White House review of Mr. Pruitt’s ethics issues was “ongoing” but offered no details. “We’re evaluating these concerns and we expect the E.P.A. administrator to answer for them and we’ll keep you posted,” she said.

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