May 2, 2018

Report: Lobbyist helped arrange Pruitt's $100k Morocco trip

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.

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World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1 million

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Novel coronavirus infections have hit the 1 million mark after "near exponential growth" that's reached "almost every country," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

The big picture: The global death toll exceeded 50,000 on Thursday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported nearly 14,000 deaths. Governments around the world have introduced public health and economic measures to try and curb the impact of the virus.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 min ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 1,007,997 — Total deaths: 52,771 — Total recoveries: 210,055Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 236,339 — Total deaths: 5,648 — Total recoveries: 8,861Map.
  3. 2020 update: The Democratic National Committee said its July convention will be postponed until August because of the coronavirus.
  4. Jobs latest: The coronavirus unemployment numbers are like a natural disaster hitting every state
  5. Public health latest: FDA allows blood donations from gay men after 3-month waiting period, citing "urgent need."
  6. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Navy removes captain of aircraft carrier who sounded alarm about coronavirus.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Judge declines to delay Wisconsin April 7 primary, extends absentee deadline

Photo: Darren Hauck/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday declined to delay Wisconsin's April 7 primary election, saying he doesn't have the authority to do so.

Why it matters: Wisconsin is the only state scheduled to vote next Tuesday that has not yet delayed its primary.