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Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Photo: Pete Marovich/Getty Images

The Government Accountability Office determined that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the federal spending laws when the agency installed a $43,000 private phone booth in EPA chief Scott Pruitt's office without notifying Congress, reports ABC News.

Why it matters: Axios' Ben Geman says this is yet another negative headline for Pruitt at a time when he's facing multiple inquiries from lawmakers, the White House and the EPA's inspector general over his travel, security expenses, living arrangements and more. President Trump has signaled his support for Pruitt amid the ethics controversies, but the White House has also said that it’s still reviewing the matters.

But, but, but: Another report out today has some better news for Pruitt. The EPA's inspector general said documents show that Pruitt's chief of staff authorized significant raises for top EPA aides over objections from the White House, per Bloomberg. That backs up Pruitt's assertion that he neither knew about the raises nor their scope.

  • Flashback: Pruitt's denial earlier this month: “I found out this yesterday and I corrected the action and we are in the process of finding out how it took place and correcting it."

Go deeper

5 hours ago - World

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dave Lawler, author of World
7 hours ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.

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