Pruitt Dined With Climate-Skeptic Vatican Official Charged With Sex Abuse, and the EPA Tried to Hide It

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had a $240-per-person dinner at a Rome restaurant with a Vatican cardinal who was a climate-change skeptic and under investigation for sex abuse in 2017. The EPA office did not disclose the cardinal was at the dinner on public records, according to documents obtained by The New York Times.

Cardinal George Pell pleaded not guilty to historical charges of sexual abuse at the end of April in his home country of Australia. But in June 2017, he had dinner with Pruitt, his top aides and others at La Terrazza, a restaurant in Rome. Pruitt's team knew Pell was under investigation for sex abuse at the time, according to Times reporter Eric Lipton, who told the story in a series of tweets containing links to EPA documents he and colleague Lisa Friedman obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests and subsequent lawsuits.

FOLLOW ALONG WITH US HERE, as we walk through a FASCINATING collection of documents The NYT has pulled together about a certain dinner in Rome that EPA's Scott Pruitt had last June with Cardinal Pell, who is now facing sexual abuse charges. (PLEASE CREDIT NYT )@LFFriedman

— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) May 10, 2018

Planning for the dinner with Pell started in May 2017. But as Lipton noted, none of the four calendars released by Pruitt's office showed that Pell would be attending the dinner. Pruitt's top aide, Samantha Dravis, sent an email on June 9 saying she was "at dinner with Cardinal Pell and Mr. Pruitt."

According to that email, the two men were discussing a Wall Street Journal article by a former Obama administration official proposing a process of peer review for climate science that would use opposing teams to argue for and against scientific reports, a system known as "Red Team/Blue Team."

Pell and Pruitt have both expressed skepticism about climate change. In 2011, Pell gave a speech in which he said carbon dioxide was "not a pollutant, but part of the stuff of life," and that "plants would love it" if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased. Increasing carbon dioxide emissions as a result of industrialization are a major cause of global warming.

Just a few weeks after the dinner, Pell was charged with sexual assault, the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged in connection with the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.

Pruitt is currently the target of at least 10 federal investigations centered around alleged misuse of taxpayer funds and retaliation against employees.