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Scott Pruitt’s visit to Morocco initiated by a lobbyist hired later by the Kingdom’s embassy

Recent revelations show that Scott Pruitt’s visit to Morocco was arranged by an American lobbyist. The latter has signed later a $40.000 contract with the Moroccan Embassy in Washington.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt./Ph. DR
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An American Lobbyist has arranged Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt’s controversial visit to Morocco, revealed Le Desk last week and confirmed New York Times and the Washington Post in two investigative papers.

The four-day trip was scheduled by Richard Smotkin, a former Comcast lobbyist and a longtime friend of Pruitt, well-informed sources told the Washington Post.

In fact, Smotkin’s role in the trip, which has reportedly cost $100.000 and was marked by promoting Liquefied Gas imports, is allegedly connected to a $40.000 contract he signed with the Moroccan Embassy in Washington. The latter was signed in January to promote the kingdom’s cultural and economic interests.

Richard Smotkin./Ph. DRRichard Smotkin./Ph. DR

In a story appeared last week, French-language online newspaper Le Desk published a copy of the signed contract. Through his firm «Third Circle», Smotkin concluded the deal with the embassy of Morocco in Washington, promising to «craft and outreach program to provide opportunities to engage in meaningful dialogue with various stakeholders ethnic/issue-oriented groups across a range of issue from culture to economics».

The contract signed in January, one month after Pruitt's December trip to Morocco, has also promised to promote the country as a film and world-class golf destination.

Attending meetings in Morocco

However, after Pruitt has been at the heart of a huge scandal in the USA, questioned about his lavish domestic travel and security costs, reports emerged giving details about Smotkin's involvement in EPA chief’s trip to Morocco and suspicious activities there.

Reportedly, Smotkin has attended the visit Pruitt made to the Green Energy Park in Ben Guerir and the one that brought him together with OCP’s executive.

The lobbyist had also joined Scott Pruitt for dinner during his final night in Marrakech, EPA told the Washington Post.

Responding to allegations, Pruitt said last week in a congress hearing that the reason why he went on the trip was because he received an invitation from Morocco’s ambassador in the United States, namely Lalla Joumala Alaoui.

Replying to a question asked by Rep. Chellie Pingree, the EPA chief said that he was «asked by the Moroccan embassy to discussed natural gas exports» once in the North African Kingdom.

EPA's chief Scott Pruitt and Energy Minister Aziz Rabbah./Ph. EPAEPA's chief Scott Pruitt and Energy Minister Aziz Rabbah./Ph. EPA

Monday, the embassy denied Pruitt’s statement in a communiqué insisting that the Republican was sent an official invitation to «promote sustainable development» in the country, adding that :

«All meetings during this working visit were organized through official diplomatic channels with the objective to explore ways and means to deepen and broaden our bilateral work, namely in support of the Kingdom’s various initiatives to protect the environment, reduce Morocco’s carbon footprint and promote sustainable development».

A known lobbyist

Smotkin's involvement in the Morocco visit was not limited to that only. It has been reported that Smotkin worked with Pruitt and other senior counsels from the agency to arrange parts of the visit’s agenda, four individuals close to the file told the Washington Post. They have discussed, according to the same source, Pruitt’s ability to speak at the «Atlantic Diologues» a conference held by OCP in Marrakech. Pruitt ended up by not showing up.

The EPA responded in a statement saying that Smotkin «did not attend or participate in any official meetings with the Moroccan government». Meanwhile, Moroccan government officials refused to discuss their dealings with Pruitt when asked by the American newspaper.

The involvement of Smotkin in the trip, however, makes it hard to think that Pruitt has innocently made reference to LNG imports while in Morocco.

The two men knew each other since Pruitt was a deputy in Oklahoma. «During his time in Oklahoma, Mr. Pruitt and Mr. Smotkin developed a friendship as they repeatedly met up at resort destinations», wrote New York Times in an article dedicated to the recent revelations.

EPA’s general inspector is currently investigating Pruitt’s activities as head of the Environmental agency, including his December trip to Morocco. Moreover, earlier last month reports indicated that Pruitt is renting a condo owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist.

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