Scott Pruitt Aide Seeking Trump Hotel Mattress is ‘Illegal,’ Has ‘Appearance Of Stupidity,’ Ex-Bush Ethics Chief Says

A senior aide to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt assisted him on a variety of personal tasks, including seeking a mattress from Trump International Hotel, and such conduct breaks federal law, ethics experts said.

Related: New EPA Lawsuit Claims Scott Pruitt 'Covered Up Evidence of Potential Criminal Wrongdoing'

Pruitt’s scheduling director Millan Hupp revealed to congressional investigators that she used her own time, such as her lunch breaks and vacations, to help Pruitt look for an apartment, book non-work-related travel and find a bed from a hotel owned by President Donald Trump, The New York Times reported on Monday.

Hupp told the Times she did not remember sending an email to the Washington hotel’s managing director, “but I do recall there being discussions about the possibility of securing an old mattress from the Trump Hotel.” She said she could not remember if mattress ended up being bought.

Richard Painter, a chief ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush, told Newsweek Monday that it is “illegal to ask a subordinate in government to run personal errands for you.”

The act "is going to lead to an appearance of stupidity," Painter added. "Asking a subordinate who is female to buy a mattress I think is a little bit over the top." 

A federal ethics provision prohibits bosses from requesting that employees help them with personal issues outside the office, and another ban using government time for personal matters.

“Directing or coercing a subordinate to perform such activities during nonduty hours constitutes an improper use of public office for private gain,” states the U.S. Office of Government Ethics’ Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a press conference on Monday afternoon said, “I couldn't comment on specifics of the furniture used in his apartment."

Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C., told Newsweek on Monday that Hupp’s effort to help Pruitt purchase the mattress from Trump’s hotel should qualify as an issue the EPA inspector general should review.

The inspector general’s page on abuse indicators lists “performing tasks related to personal business during work hours and on government equipment.”

“Clearly it’s the kind of thing that the EPA inspector general has laid out as a potential problem,” Libowitz said. “She has a job in the government and that job is not to do personal tasks for Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt faces a dozen federal investigations, including his rental of a $50 per night condominium from the wife of a lobbyist involved with the EPA, and his frequent and costly travel expenses.

Painter also questioned why Pruitt appears to have wanted a mattress from Trump's hotel specifically.

"There must be 60 hotels in Washington. I don't believe the mattresses in the Trump hotel are any better," Painter said. "This is just weird." 

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