Top Pruitt Aide Resigns from EPA Amid Ongoing Controversies

(CN) –  A top aide to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned Thursday amid a series of controversies that continue to fuel speculation of his impending firing.

Samantha Dravis, the senior counsel and associate administrator in EPA’s Office of Policy, is a longtime Pruitt friend and associate, having previously worked as his policy director and general counsel at the Republican Attorneys General Association.

She reportedly told officials within the EPA that she intended to resign last week as scrutiny intensified around Pruitt’s spending habits, hefty raises he gave to top members of his staff, and his rental of a Washington property co-owned by a prominent energy industry lobbyist.

Dravis coached Pruitt for his Senate confirmation hearing and was widely considered his closest confidant at the agency.

She also spearheaded reorganization within the EPA in September when she was a part of a  team which moved the agency’s environmental justice office and its National Environmental Policy Act office from their longtime home base at the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance to her department.

During the transition, the move to bring the offices physically closer was criticized as an attempt by the administrator to insert his own political agenda into compliance an policy decisions.

The EPA did not return multiple requests for comment Thursday morning.

Dravis served as White House associate director of political affairs under President George W. Bush. Her time in Republican circles also included her serving as president of the Rule of Law Defense Fund – an organization Pruitt chaired — and before that she was legal counsel at Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce — an organization of conservative political donors led by the Koch brothers.

The University of Notre Dame Law School grad did not require senate confirmation to serve as Pruitt’s aide.

While Dravis prepared to leave the agency, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders downplayed the brewing controversies at the EPA Wednesday.

At a White House press briefing, Sanders would not answer questions  directly about whether or not the president is satisfied with Pruitt’s performance, though she did say the president was satisfied with Pruitt’s commitment to deregulation.

When pressed for the president’s opinion on Pruitt’s property rental imbroglio, Sanders said Trump was “reviewing the situation.”

“When we have had the chance to have a deeper dive on it … we’ll let you know the outcomes of that, but we’re currently reviewing that here at the White House,” she said Wednesday.

Entanglements around Pruitt’s condo rental have also continued to deepen.

EPA ethics lawyer Kevin Minoli issued a letter Wednesday saying he wasn’t given all of the information needed when he ruled last week that no ethics violations occurred when Pruitt scooped up the bargain-rate condo for just $50 per night.

“Some have raised questions whether the actual use of the space was consistent with the terms of the lease,” Minoli said, referencing a second bedroom in the unit which was used by Pruitt’s daughter McKenna. “Evaluating those questions would have required factual information that was not before us and the review does not address those questions.”

Though last week Minoli said the rate for the one bedroom was fair market value, his estimation failed to consider the second bedroom. Altogether Pruitt shelled out roughly $1,000 for his stay, a steep drop in price compared to other two bedroom units in the same neighborhood.

When reached for comment Thursday, EPA spokesman Liz Bowman said “after serving for over a year as EPA’s head of policy, Samantha Dravis has decided to pursue other opportunities.

“She has been integral in the Agency’s successful implementation of the President’s environmental agenda and the Agency wishes her success in her future endeavors,” Bowman said.

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