NYT: Pruitt wanted to change EPA keepsake coin

Administrator wanted personal items on coin

Andrew Harnik/AP via CNN

Scott Pruitt

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt wanted to get rid of the EPA logo on the agency's keepsake "challenge coin," The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing a former agency employee and two individuals who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Times reported that Pruitt had floated the idea of adding symbols of personal importance to him to the coin -- which the newspaper describes as "a type of souvenir medallion" -- such as a buffalo for his home state of Oklahoma and a Bible verse.

The ideas were met with concern from senior officials at the EPA, the Times reported. Ronald Slotkin, a former EPA employee who is now retired, told the Times that the coins are meant to "represent the agency" but that "Pruitt wanted his coin to be bigger than everyone else's and he wanted it in a way that represented him."

According to the Times, Pruitt didn't want to change just the keepsake coin. The newspaper reported that Pruitt asked for notebooks, pens and stationery to be ordered and wanted the items to feature his name, but not the EPA seal. The newspaper reported that a small version of the seal was put on the items, citing multiple people familiar with the situation.

Jahan Wilcox, an EPA spokesman, said in a statement to CNN that "Administrator Pruitt does not have a challenge coin," adding, "but while we're on the subject, President Obama's Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth spent taxpayers dollars on challenge coins."

Wilcox was referring to a report from 2016 that Duckworth, who is now a Democratic senator from Illinois, presided over an expenditure of $1,875 on challenge coins while serving as VA assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs in the Obama administration. Duckworth's office has not responded to CNN's request for comment.

On Monday, Duckworth requested a federal investigation into whether the EPA had violated federal law when it granted substantial raises to two top Pruitt aides.

The raises are just one in a series of controversies facing Pruitt. The administrator has been caught up in criticism and questions over his costly security detail and his decision to rent a room in Washington tied to an energy lobbyist, among other actions.

Pruitt has argued that the criticism he has faced is an effort by opponents of the President to derail the administration's agenda. On Saturday, Trump tweeted that the administrator "is doing a great job!"

The Times notes that challenge coins have military origins. Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, spoke about the significance of a challenge coin given to her with the emblem of her National Guard unit in an interview with The Washington Post in 2011, saying "that's my identity."

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