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GAO: EPA Broke Law When Installing Soundproof Phone Booth

GAO: EPA Broke Law When Installing Soundproof Phone Booth

The Environmental Protection Agency broke the law because it failed to notify Congress when it bought a sound proof phone booth for administrator Scott Pruitt.

The EPA violated the law when it approved the phone booth a year ago for Pruitt's office, the Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog, said earlier on Monday. The Government Accountability Office says any amount over $5,000 required notification of the Appropriations Committees in Congress.

The expenditure violated the Antideficiency Act because it "obligated appropriated funds in a manner specifically prohibited by law", the GAO said in a report made public Monday.

EPA has said Pruitt needed the privacy booth to make secure phone calls with President Donald Trump and others without fear of eavesdropping. Previous EPA chiefs did not use a secured phone booth in their office to run the agency.

EPA spent about $25,000 on the privacy booth and an additional $18,000 on costs associated with modifying a storage closet connected to Pruitt's office to accommodate it.

ABC News has reached out to the EPA for a response.

Democrats on Capitol Hill had requested the legal opinion from GAO on Pruitt's phone.

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EPA representatives said they were cooperating with the request.

"Scott Pruitt likes to talk about returning the EPA to the rule of law, but it turns out he's better at breaking it than following it".

"These are operated by EPA sub-organizations and are located three floors away from the Administrator's office", the comptroller said in a footnote. "An illegal privacy booth to conduct secret discussions with his polluter friends does nothing to help our health or environment", said Sen.

Statements from environmental groups also poured in, with several calling on Pruitt to leave the agency.

Pruitt's chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, is also on the list to be interviewed, as are two young aides that the administrator brought with him from Oklahoma, where he previously served as attorney general. "He must fire him immediately", said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

Gowdy's committee is investigating Pruitt's spending and is seeking interviews with five of his top aides.

"Because EPA did not comply with the notification requirement, the funds were not legally available at the time EPA incurred the obligation", the GAO found. "EPA should report its Antideficiency Act violation as required by law".