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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

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations before leaving office

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue at least 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, sources familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: This is a continuation of the president's controversial December spree that saw full pardons granted to more than two dozen people — including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, longtime associate Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father of Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

  • The pardons set to be issued before Trump exits the White House will be a mix of criminal justice ones and pardons for people connected to the president, the sources said.
  • CNN first reported this news.

Go deeper: Convicts turn to D.C. fixers for Trump pardons

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.