EPA's Pruitt dined with a cardinal facing sex charges

Posted at 9:42 AM, May 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-12 09:42:44-04

(CNN) - Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is under scrutiny again this time for a dinner he had in Italy last year.

It included a high-profile cardinal who is now on trial for alleged child sex abuse.

Documents uncovered by the New York Times reveal Pruitt dined with a controversial Vatican figure, along with over a dozen other church leaders at an 5-star restaurant during his trip Italy last year even though his public schedule said he was simply having a private dinner with staff.

The guest of honor, according to the documents, a known climate denier, Vatican Treasurer Cardinal George Pell.

Pell is also the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church to be charged with child sex abuse.

Decades of allegations are now going to court in Australia where Pell was an archbishop.

Pell has plead "not guilty" and while the dinner took place before he was formally charged, he was under investigation when he dined with Pruitt.

The EPA won't say why Pell was kept off the public schedule. In a statement to CNN, the agency said, "on June 9, 2017, Administrator Pruitt had dinner with over a dozen leaders from the Holy See and on June 29, 2017, Cardinal Pell was charged."

But the document specifically says the dinner was with Pell, even noting it would take place a day before the cardinal's birthday.

This trip is already under scrutiny for its $120,000 price tag, and reporting that it was organized by an activist friend of Pruitt's.

His justification, "The trip to Italy was a G7 trip, occurring a week after the Paris decision."

Pruitt is facing almost a dozen investigations into his questionable spending.

President Donald Trump said he still has confidence in Pruitt but the White House says his actions have raised concerns.

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