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April 13, 2018

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's profligate spending of taxpayer money isn't new — he reportedly jacked up spending when he was Oklahoma attorney general, too — but EPA officials have justified most of it by citing apparently very overblown concerns about Pruitt's safety. And Pruitt's main enabler, Politico says, is the head of his 19-person 24/7 security detail, Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta.

Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent, encouraged or insisted that Pruitt (and himself) fly first class, upgrade to a specialized SUV, sweep his office for bugs — with a company linked to Perrotta — and install a $43,000 soundproof booth, Politico says, and recently retired EPA multimedia director Ron Slotkin said Perrotta posted a guard to keep employees out of Pruitt's EPA suite of offices. "Mr. Pruitt thinks he's the president of the United States," one former career staffer told Politico. "He's big on image."

He wasn't big on taking out the trash, however, The Daily Beast reports, citing numerous sources familiar with his $50-a-night rental situation last year. The lobbyist owners of the townhouse, Vicki and J. Steven Hart, eventually had to push Pruitt out the door, but The Daily Beast recounts another reason why Pruitt was "the tenant from hell":

According to three people familiar with events, Pruitt would not take out the trash during his time staying at the townhouse, believing that a cleaning service would do it for him. There was no cleaning service that came with the apartment, however. And the garbage bags piled up to the point that Vicki Hart was forced to tell him to put them in the canister and to take that canister out to the street the next time he left the building. [The Daily Beast]

Steve Hart is also facing pressure to retire early as chairman of the lobbying firm Williams & Jensen because of his now-famous ties to Pruitt, The Daily Beast reports. President Trump, meanwhile, says he believes Pruitt is doing a terrific job. Peter Weber

9:20 p.m.

A hotel in the Dominican Republic where two American tourists recently died said it is removing liquor bottles from its minibars, but denies the move has anything to do with the deaths.

Erica Lopez, the general manager of The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana, told CNN the decision to take out the bottles was made last week. Over the last year, at least 10 American tourists have died in the Dominican Republic, including David Harrison, 45, of Maryland, who died at the Hard Rock last July, and Robert Wallace, 67, of California, who died there in April. One theory behind the deaths is that tainted alcohol was somehow involved, and Wallace's relatives told KTXL he became ill after drinking scotch from the minibar in his room.

The FBI is assisting Dominican officials with toxicology reports, testing samples from some hotel minibars; authorities say that any time someone dies in a hotel room in the Dominican Republic, they test minibars for bacteria and take samples of water from showers and sinks. Last year, 6.5 million tourists visited the Dominican Republic, with 2.2 million from the United States, and officials from both countries say the deaths are not connected there's no reason to cancel any upcoming vacations. Catherine Garcia

8:03 p.m.

Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins, 103, is a force to be reckoned with on the track.

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resident has always been active, but preferred riding her bicycle to other activities. After she fell off her bike and dislocated her elbow, Hawkins switched to running a few years ago, telling Today, "I always came running in to answer the phone, so I thought maybe I could run."

Last week, she became the oldest woman to compete — and win — in the National Senior Games, taking home the gold in the 50- and 100-meter races. Hawkins, a former elementary school teacher, doesn't train for her runs, and said she gets her exercise from gardening. Inspiring older people to stay active is "a good thing," she told Today, and she wants everyone to remember "you can still do things when you get older. Just keep moving and be interested in things." Catherine Garcia

7:07 p.m.

As part of an audit, the Office of the Inspector General will investigate why the Treasury Department delayed the release of a redesigned $20 bill featuring abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked the Treasury's watchdog to look into the matter and if there was "any involvement by the White House." In a statement released Monday, Schumer said there are "no women, there are no people of color on our paper currency today, even though they make up a significant majority of our population ... the $20 note was a long overdue way to recognize that disparity, and rectify it."

During the Obama administration, former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced the redesign, scheduled for release in 2020. In May, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Tubman $20 was being pushed aside, as the $10 and $50 bills needed to be redesigned first due to counterfeit concerns. The audit, which should take about 10 months to complete, will also look at security measures in place for currency. Catherine Garcia

5:37 p.m.

It's fair to assume that, when playing word association games, "Burning Man" and "lobbyist" don't pair together all too often.

But that's exactly what's happening in real life, Politico reports. Burning Man, an annual festival — actually, Burning Man's official website is loud and clear about the fact that the event is not a festival, but a "community," "temporary city," or "global cultural movement" — that takes place in the Nevada desert.

Burning Man organizers are reportedly afraid that new federal regulations could end its reign, or at least kill its vibe. The Bureau of Land Management wrote a 372-page draft creating a whole set of new standards that would seemingly knock some of the wind out of the event's carefree, unrestrained spirit, including calls for reduced light pollution, additional dumpsters, a wall outside of the venue, and maintenance on Nevada's County Road 34.

So, because those proposals are "in direct conflict with" Burning Man's "core principles," the event now has some "top-shelf" lobbyists from the firm Holland & Knight on retainer, Politico reports. Several lobbyists from both sides of the aisle, including a former Trump campaign staffer, will reportedly talk with the Bureau of Land Management on getting a permit for the event. Tim O'Donnell

5:30 p.m.

Prisoners of some of the world's worst terrorist groups had a privilege that many migrant children don't.

Reports had already indicated that migrant children were being held in disgusting conditions in U.S. detention centers, and last week, that story came to a head as a video showed a Trump administration lawyer arguing that toothpaste and soap aren't necessary to constitute "safe and sanitary" conditions. That viral footage prompted a response from Michael Scott Moore, who tweeted Saturday that "Somali pirates gave me toothpaste and soap."

Moore would know. He was kidnapped by Somali pirates in 2012 and was held for two and a half years before he was released. His response then got some backup from David Rohde, who tweeted that "the Taliban gave me toothpaste and soap." The journalist was kidnapped by Taliban members in 2008 and held for eight months before escaping.

An Associated Press report last week first described conditions at a Clint, Texas detention facility, where there was "inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens" being held there. A doctor who visited the facility later filed a report saying it "could be compared to torture facilities." All but 30 of those children have since been taken out of the facility and to a tent detention center, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) told AP on Monday. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:19 p.m.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio needs a presidential primary boost. This probably won't do it.

On Monday, de Blasio tweeted an apparent text exchange between himself and his 21-year-old son Dante, in which the 2020 Democrat asks his son for advice ahead of Wednesday's primary debates. "Hey Dad, I'm glad you've asked," Dante responds in what one can only assume is the tone of an infomercial host, before going on to share some advice.

For starters, Dante tells de Blasio to relate the story of meeting his wife Chirlane McCray to "how hard it is to find, like, 'the one' on tinder." De Blasio is skeptical, so Dante suggests bringing up the universally beloved subject of dogs, and then proposes de Blasio "tell people that NYC was just Staten Island when you started your first term." For an extra hip approach, Dante also recommends the tallest candidate on the stage try "a Zion leap over the moderator to the rim."

It was in de Blasio's best interest to ask Dante for some help, given that his stellar ad for his father's 2013 mayoral race is said to have steered de Blasio to victory. Dante is also a state debate champion, as de Blasio alludes to in his carefully crafted text exchange. And while this exchange may not do the mayor any favors, Dante should at least be credited with convincing de Blasio to apparently ditch his beloved flip phone. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:04 p.m.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry would like to thank actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mark Hamill for their artistry — but he's not talking about their portrayals of Elaine Benes, Selina Meyer, or Luke Skywalker.

Instead, Kerry is talking about a their participation in a play based on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation into 2016 Russian election interference. Hamill and Louis-Dreyfus will join a wide-ranging cast, including John Lithgow, Alyssa Milano, Annette Bening, Sigourney Weaver and Zachary Quinto, to perform a one-night-only show titled The Investigation: A Search For the Truth in Ten Acts. The play, which is written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Schenkkan, is set to air in New York at 9 p.m. It will be live streamed.

Kerry, it seems, will be tuning in, and he's quite excited about it, going so far as to call the 10-act play "an act of public service."

If, for some reason, you feel the urge to see not one, but two staged performances about the Mueller report, Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., is presenting an 11-hour marathon reading of Volume 2 of the Mueller report in July, The Washington Post reports. Tim O'Donnell

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