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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 2 hours ago - Technology

From Malcolm X to "Free Britney," new media shapes the justice system

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

True crime documentaries, podcasts and social media campaigns are bringing new attention to real-world legal proceedings — and are often affecting the outcome.

Why it matters: New media platforms can instantly put a national spotlight on cases that have long been forgotten or buried under red tape.

Updated 5 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 5 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.