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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

Go deeper

Updated 11 mins ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Iraqis dressed in traditional outfits greet Pope Francis upon his arrival at Erbil airport, in the capital of the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, on March 7. Photo: Safin Hamed/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting northern areas of Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.