Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Photo: Jason Andrew/Getty Images

The Washington Post is reporting that a former Comcast lobbyist partially helped set up meetings between Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt and the Moroccan government last December, a trip that cost $100,000 — more than the $40,000 the agency had initially claimed.

Why it matters, per Axios' Amy Harder: This controversy goes further in casting doubt on Pruitt's job — which is already on thin ice — than others involving questionable accommodations and excessive spending. That's because it appears from the Post story that a representative of a foreign government has had extensive influence over not just the Morocco trip but other times during Pruitt's time at EPA so far.

The details: EPA officials confirmed to the Post that lobbyist Richard Smotkin arranged Pruitt’s initial meeting with Morocco’s ambassador in D.C., which led to an invitation from the ambassador for Pruitt to visit her country.

  • The report said Smotkin, who signed a $40,000-a-month contract with the Embassy of Morocco to promote the country’s economic interests, went with Pruitt to meetings.However, the EPA told the Post, "Smotkin did not attend or participate in any official meetings with the Moroccan government."

Yes, but: While ethically questionable, the report does not state that the relationship has broken any laws.

Go deeper

Harris: "Women are going to be a priority" in Biden administration

Sen. Kamala Harris at an event in Wilmington, Del. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In her first sit-down interview since being named Joe Biden's running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris talked about what she'll do to fight for women if elected VP, and how the Democrats are thinking about voter turnout strategies ahead of November.

What they're saying: "In a Biden-Harris administration women are going to be a priority, understanding that women have many priorities and all of them must be acknowledged," Harris told The 19th*'s Errin Haines-Whack.

Facebook goes after Apple

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Facebook is seeking to force a face-off with Apple over its 30% in-app purchase commission fee, which Facebook suggests hurts small businesses struggling to get by during the pandemic.

The big picture: Facebook has never publicly gone after Apple, a key strategic partner, this aggressively. Both companies face antitrust scrutiny, which in Apple's case has centered on the very fee structure Facebook is now attacking.

2 hours ago - World

Exclusive: UAE wants Israel normalization finalized "as soon as possible," minister says

The UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, told me in an exclusive interview that his country wants to implement its normalization deal with Israel “as soon as possible."

What he's saying: Gargash said he was confident that the U.S.-brokered deal moved Israeli annexation of the West Bank off the table for a “long time.” He also said Israeli tourists would soon be able to travel to the UAE.