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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 25 mins ago - World

Netanyahu is out as new Israeli government survives confidence vote

Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images

Israel has a new prime minister for the first time since 2009 after a power-sharing government led by Naftali Bennett survived a confidence vote on Sunday. Bennett was sworn in as prime minister.

Why it matters: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving prime minister and the man around whom Israeli politics have revolved for a decade, will now become opposition leader. Bennett, a right-wing former Netanyahu protege, will lead the most ideologically diverse government in Israeli history.

Updated 44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Afghanistan, cyber defense on the agenda for Biden in Brussels

Joe Biden arrives at Melsbroek Military Airport in Brussels on June 13. Photo: Yves Herman/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden touched down in Brussels on Sunday evening ahead of two days of talks with NATO and European Union leaders as part of his first foreign trip as president.

Driving the news: Biden was greeted on the tarmac by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and a slate of other officials, including Douglas Jones and Mark Libby, the U.S. Permanent Representatives to NATO and the EU respectively.

Maersk CEO: Global businesses should be wary of politics

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

The CEO of the world's largest container-shipping company cautions that international firms have to be careful of taking political stances.

  • What they're saying: "We cannot run a global business if we start to have views on politics in every single country that we are in," Maersk CEO Søren Skou tells "Axios on HBO."