A conservative group is monitoring the emails of Trump and Scott Pruitt critics in the EPA

Scott Pruitt.
(Image credit: Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

America Rising, a conservative campaign research group that questions the global and scientific consensus on climate change, has filed at least 20 Freedom of Information Act requests focused on emails from Environmental Protection Agency employees days after the employees were critical of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, President Trump, or Pruitt's direction of the agency, The New York Times reports. Now the EPA has hired a close affiliate of America Rising, Definers Public Affairs, to perform "media monitoring" for the agency, tracking when the EPA is mentioned in the news or on social media.

Allan Blutstein, who works for both America Rising and Definers, told The New York Times he filed the FOIA requests as "more of a fishing expedition" to see if he could find Pruitt or Trump critics inside the EPA who violated agency rules or used the EPA's email system inappropriately. An EPA spokesman said the $120,000 Definers contract is just for media clipping services, not employee surveillance. It's not clear what role Pruitt, who is more secretive and has a much larger security detail than his predecessors, played in the hiring. William K. Reilly, the EPA administrator under George H.W. Bush, said Pruitt is demoralizing his workforce: "This shows complete insensitivity, complete tone-deafness, or something worse."

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