Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt lied to Congress during his confirmation hearings when he said he had never used his private email account for official business while serving as attorney general of Oklahoma.
The revelations became public last week, but picked up traction on Thursday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was also caught having lied during his testimony.
The court-ordered release of tens of thousands of Pruitt's emails, published as part of a lawsuit filed by the watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), expose not just the former Oklahoma lawmaker's cozy relationship with the fossil fuel industry—they also show that many of his official emails were copied to his personal account, contradicting his testimony to the Senate Public Works Committee, whom he told, "I use only my official OAG [office of the attorney general] email address and government-issued phone to conduct official business."
Opponents slammed the revelations on Friday, although they did not exactly seem surprised.
"Lo and behold, the documents Scott Pruitt wanted to keep hidden have confirmed our suspicion that he used his personal email address to conduct official state business and that he was not honest with the Senate about this during his confirmation process," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) told the Washington Post, calling Pruitt "the polluter's tool."
CMD research director Nick Surgey said in a statement, "Pruitt has been caught misleading the Senate about his use of personal email for state business. The public has a right to know what else Pruitt is trying to hide, and the Center for Media and Democracy will keep fighting for the whole truth to be brought into the light."
The emails copied to his personal account include correspondence with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate-funded conservative lobbying group; the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM); and members of his then-staff.
One email from Sarah K. Magruder Lyle, then vice president of AFPM's strategic initiatives, refers to renewable fuel standards (RFS), an environmental rule that requires mixing renewable fuel into gasoline. Lyle writes, "AFPM remains very interested in the prospect of your state filing a similar waiver request highlighting the environmental harm caused by the RFS mandate which we discussed previously."
Another few emails revolve around setting up a speaking engagement for Pruitt at an ALEC convention.
Pruitt previously refused to comply with CMD's requests for his documents, which the advocacy group said violated Oklahoma's Open Records Act. The emails were released on February 21—days after the Senate voted to confirm Pruitt. Democrats had demanded a delay on the vote so that the emails could be reviewed, but were rejected.
Surgey added to the Post, "Pruitt refused to answer a lot of the questions put to him. This was a question he did answer and it looks as though he may have misled the Senate about the use of his personal email."
Pruitt is only the latest member of Trump's cabinet to be caught falsifying testimony to Congress; on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was revealed to have lied about his contact with the Russian government during the 2016 election, and is facing a growing call to step down. On Thursday, ProPublica published a list of the cabinet members who were found to have made false statements to Congress—so far.