Scott Pruitt needs to bottle the four words that kept spilling out of his mouth last week as he testified before Congress.
If he bottled his favorite phrase, he would easily have enough elixir — even at a nickel a dose — to more than pay for his $50 a night condo rentals from an energy lobbyist.
"I was not aware ..."
Those were generally his go-to words as he took heat — though never enough heat — from lawmakers asking about his ridiculous spending or his lobbyist ties or his ethical lapses during the interminable months as head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Pruitt called the allegations against him "twisted" and meant to undermine the Trump administration's anti-regulatory agenda.
But most of us see a twistedness in his pricey first-class and charter plane travel, in his round-the-clock, 20-member security detail rivaling that of royals. Many wonder what kind of "twisted" person would order a $43,000 soundproof booth in his office so he can make private phone calls. (First he said it was a SCIF, a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility used by government to protect classified information, then he acknowledged that no, it wasn't. Besides, EPA already had SCIFs. No, this is just his soundproof phone booth. For what? Making special housing arrangements with lobbyists? Insider trading? Psychic hotline calls?)
"I'm not aware of any instances," Pruitt told Congress on Thursday about whether he had received any other gifts from lobbyists other than some six months worth of nightly sleepovers in a posh D.C. condo that's cheaper than a room at a Chattanooga Motel 6.
"I was not aware of the amount provided or the process that was used in providing that," he said of the huge pay raises given to two women on his staff. (Pruitt did finally acknowledge that he, in fact, did know something about those raises, despite his insistence weeks ago that he didn't approve them even though they were nixed by the White House. They were funded anyway with an unusual use of a little-known provision in the Safe Water Drinking Act.)
Astonishingly, he still told Congress, "I'm not aware of any government time being used" by one of those women (a "friend" as she helped him find accommodations in the capital. Her "scheduling director" salary more than doubled, by the way, from $48,000 to $114,590.
Of the $43,000 phone booth, he claimed to have been not aware of the cost: "I was not involved in the approval of the $43,000, and if I had known about it, Congressman, I would not have approved it."
The same was said of his first-class travel expenses: "Security decisions at the agency are made by law enforcement personnel, and I have heeded their counsel."
At several points, he spoke of decisions made by "career individuals at the agency."
One wonders if he is "aware" what his job is. Is he "aware" even that he works for the government? For taxpayers?
"You're the guy in charge," Democratic Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont told him. "It really seems like there's something on your desk with the motto: 'The buck stops nowhere.'"
Pruitt may not be aware he even has a desk — much less a motto.