EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is facing intense congressional scrutiny at two House hearings Thursday about his ethical behavior and spending controversies.

Driving the news: Veering from his written prepared testimony, Pruitt appeared to implicitly acknowledge wrongdoing, something he hasn't done before despite heightened political backlash.

"I am not afraid to admit there’s been a learning process."
— EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

Facing questions from Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois, who is chairing the hearing, Pruitt appeared to concede a bit more. "This has been a distraction to our agenda," Pruitt said. "And that troubles me. I have to take responsibility."

Yes, but: Despite these cautious concessions, Pruitt mostly sounded off against what he describes as the half truths and "twisted" stories about him in the media. That's what he has done in the past, particularly in a Fox News interview earlier this month.

  • "Let’s have no illusions about what’s going on," Pruitt maintained, adding that the criticism is coming from people who don't like President Trump's agenda.

What's next: The hearing, which began at 10am ET, is expected to last at least a few hours. Pruitt then faces round two at 2pm in front of an appropriations House subcommittee.

Go deeper: The 23 pages of Pruitt's controversies

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Trump's new TikTok threat

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump said twice Monday that the U.S. Treasury would need to get a portion of the sale price of TikTok, as a condition of regulatory approval.

Why it matters: This is akin to extortion — the sort of thing you'd expect to hear on a wiretap, not from the White House in front of reporters.

Ford names James Farley as new CEO amid ongoing turnaround effort

James Hackett, left, is retiring as Ford CEO. Jim Farley, right, takes over Oct. 1. Photo: Ford

Ford announced Tuesday that James Farley will take over as its next CEO, replacing James Hackett, 65, who is retiring after three years in the job.

Why it matters: It leaves Farley to complete the company's ongoing turnaround effort. The transition will be that much harder as the industry tries to navigate the coronavirus-induced economic slowdown which shuttered Ford plants for two months on the eve of some of its most important vehicle launches.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Watch the full "Axios on HBO" interview with President Trump

In this episode of “Axios on HBO”, President Trump discusses his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the upcoming election and much more with National Political Correspondent Jonathan Swan.

The interview was filmed on Tuesday, July 28 and aired Monday, Aug. 3 on HBO.