This Sept. 21, 2017 file photo shows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Building in Washington. The Government Accountability Office has agreed to examine the legality of a politically-tinged tweet from the official Environmental Protection Agency account. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

GAO reviewing legality of 'taunting' tweet from EPA

June 05, 2018 - 12:24 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Government Accountability Office has agreed to a Democratic senator's request to examine the legality of a politically-tinged tweet from the Environmental Protection Agency, a spokesman for the watchdog agency said Tuesday.

The GAO will conduct a legal review of the April 13 tweet from the EPA's official Twitter account, spokesman Charles Young said.

The EPA tweet noted the Senate approval of Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who also served in the EPA under President George H.W. Bush, as the agency's new second-in-command.

The tweet added, "The Democrats couldn't block the confirmation of environmental policy expert and former EPA staffer."

Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico asked for the GAO review, calling the tweet "partisan taunting." Udall contended the dig by the EPA-run Twitter account violated a law barring use of government appropriations for publicity or propaganda.

The review becomes the latest in a succession of federal investigations of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and his agency, by the EPA's inspector general, the GAO, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Congress.

Questioned by Udall about the EPA tweet in a Senate hearing last month, Pruitt said, "I was unaware of the tweet and that shouldn't have occurred. The agency should not have done that."

Asked for comment Tuesday, the EPA forwarded a May 23 letter by a different federal agency, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, finding the tweet did not violate a separate law, the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity on the job.