In a new push against former Attorney General and current EPA administrator Scott Pruitt a national environmental group is urging the Oklahoma Bar Association to investigate whether Pruitt lied to senators during his confirmation hearing.
The Center for Biological Diversity and an OU law professor filed a formal complaint with the OBA alleging Pruitt showed “apparent carelessness with the truth,” after he told Senators on the Environment and Public Works Committee he did not use a personal email to do state business.
That statement was contradicted by recently released emails. The emails, turned over after a lengthy court battle, revealed Pruitt did use a personal email account to do state business with the American Legislative Economic Council, a conservative, business-oriented lobby group and one other petroleum industry lobby group.
“We have an obligation as attorneys to hold each other seriously to the standards that we've all agreed to uphold and that applies just as much to Mr. Pruitt as it does to me or any other lawyer in the state of Oklahoma,” OU Law professor Kristen van de Biezenbos said.
Beizenbos signed onto the complaint in a personal capacity. She said she understands the complaint could be viewed as a political stunt but says whether Pruitt mislead Senators is important and something Oklahomans and Americans should take note of despite who they voted for in November.
“If he did in fact lie to members of congress there should be consequences to that. I would feel that way regardless of his political affiliation or my own,” Beizenbos said.
Officials at OBA could not confirm or deny an investigation. OBA Spokesperson, Carol Manning said all OBA investigations are confidential until a ruling is made public. “We have to stay silent,” she said.
This is not the first-time Pruitt’s truthfulness during the hearing has been called into question. Questions were also raised after Pruitt told Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) he filed briefs urging a judge to make a ruling in a pending federal pollution case as Attorney General in Oklahoma. Court records revealed he never explicitly encouraged a judge to make a decision. A spokesperson for Pruitt’s nomination team said a single, vague brief filed in 2011 was what Pruitt was referring to.
His apparent falsehood then and with his answers on his emails have not gone unnoticed in the Senate. After his use of a private email was discovered, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called Pruitt’s statements perjury. But no charges have been filed against the former Attorney General.
The punishments for an OBA investigation like the one being called for by CBD range from no punishment to full disbarment, a move that would end Pruitt’s career as a lawyer in Oklahoma. His EPA office did not return questions for comment.