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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 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

Technical glitch in Facebook's ad tools creates political firestorm

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: SOPA Images / Contributor

Facebook said late Thursday that a mix of "technical problems" and confusion among advertisers around its new political ad ban rules caused issues affecting ad campaigns of both parties.

Why it matters: A report out Thursday morning suggested the ad tools were causing campaign ads, even those that adhered to Facebook's new rules, to be paused. Very quickly, political campaigners began asserting the tech giant was enforcing policies in a way that was biased against their campaigns.

8 hours ago - Health

States beg for Warp Speed billions

A COVID-19 drive-thru testing center yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Photo: David Santiago/Miami Herald via AP

Operation Warp Speed has an Achilles' heel: States need billions to distribute vaccines — and many say they don't have the cash.

Why it matters: The first emergency use authorization could come as soon as next month, but vaccines require funding for workers, shipping and handling, and for reserving spaces for vaccination sites.