Lobbyist for Moroccan government reportedly helped arrange Pruitt trip to Morocco

Last Updated May 1, 2018 7:19 PM EDT

The lobbyist who helped arrange embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt’s pricey government trip to Morocco last year now has a $40,000-a-month contract to lobby for the Moroccan government, according to the Washington Post.

The Post reports the trip cost $100,000 — far more than the $40,000 the EPA initially claimed it cost — and, citing four individuals familiar with the preparations for the trip, said lobbyist and longtime Pruitt friend Richard Smotkin was intricately involved in the planning of the December 2017 trip. According to federal records first reported by the Post, Smotkin was contracted to lobby for the Moroccan government in April, in an agreement retroactive to January 1 of this year that pays $40,000 a month for 12 months, or $480,000 in total.

Smotkin registered as a foreign agent on April 13, with the “Embassy of Morocco” listed as the foreign principal he will be working for, according to federal records. Smotkin listed his expected political activity as executing a “PR campaign.” The Post reported Smotkin attended some of the events on the Morocco trip, and served as a liaison of sorts for much of the trip.

Asked if the EPA had any additional comment about Smotkin, a spokesman to the EPA referred CBS News to a statement Pruitt gave at the time of the trip in December.

“These meetings allowed us to directly convey our priorities and best practices with Moroccan leaders, as well as identify opportunities for continued cooperation, as our two countries further talks around the Environmental Work Plan. We are committed to working closely with countries like Morocco to enhance environmental stewardship around the world,” Pruitt said in a statement at the time. 

Pruitt’s Morocco trip entailed encouraging the North African country to import liquefied natural gas from the U.S., activities that were questioned when Pruitt was grilled on Capitol Hill last week. The purpose of Pruitt’s trip to Morocco has also been questioned because Cheniere Energy, currently the sole exporter of liquefied natural gas from the continental U.S., is a lobbying client of the then-firm of Steven Hart. Hart’s wife, Vicki Hart, co-owned the condo where Pruitt stayed for more than five months last year for $50 a night, another Pruitt controversy that has garnered attention. 

Mr. Trump has continued to approve of Pruitt’s job in office, even as the criticisms of Pruitt’s conduct continue. Amid the controversies, Pruitt confirmed the resignations of two top EPA officials this week — the head of Pruitt’s security detail, and a senior adviser. Albert “Kell” Kelly has resigned as a senior adviser at the EPA running Pruitt’s Superfund task force, as has Nino Perrotta, head of Pruitt’s highly scrutinized, around-the-clock security detail. Perrotta had planned to retire this summer.

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