EPA watchdog contradicts Pruitt’s story on need for 24-7 security detail

Pruitt's round-the-clock security has cost taxpayers more than $3 million.

In April, Pruitt testified on his agency's FY2019 budget proposal, and nearly a dozen federal inquiries into his travel expenses, security practices and other issues.  (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
In April, Pruitt testified on his agency's FY2019 budget proposal, and nearly a dozen federal inquiries into his travel expenses, security practices and other issues. (Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt asked for, and received, a 24-hour security detail, seven days a week, starting his very first day in the job last February, the Washington Post revealed Monday. The agency has claimed that the increased personal security was necessary due to threats the administrator was receiving.

“EPA’s Protective Service Detail began providing 24/7 coverage of the Administrator the first day he arrived,” the agency’s inspector general, Arthur Elkins, said. This decision came at Pruitt’s request shortly after he was confirmed as EPA administrator, Elkins wrote in response to inquiries from Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Tom Carper (D-DE).

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In his response to Whitehouse and Carper, Elkins added that the inspector general’s office — which is responsible for investigating any threats made against EPA employees — “played no role” in the decision to grant Pruitt’s round-the-clock security detail.

According to a separate report by the New York Times last week, as of mid-March, the EPA had a total 33 threat investigations underway, 10 of which involved Pruitt covering the past six months.

Pruitt has frequently cited the number of threats made against him as a justification for his extensive security, as well as the many first-class flights he took at taxpayer expense.

“We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility in the marketplace and it’s created, you know, it’s created some issues and the [security] detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat,” Pruitt said earlier this year.

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One incident described by Henry Barnet, director of the agency’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, involved an individual approaching Pruitt at the Atlanta airport and yelling, “‘Scott Pruitt, you’re f—ing up the environment,’ those sort of terms.”

In addition to the costly security detail, there was also reportedly a request to spend about $70,000 to replace two desks in Pruitt’s office with a bulletproof desk. While this request was ultimately not fulfilled, another separate request to upgrade Pruitt’s official car was — this involved upgrading to a larger, more expensive vehicle with bullet-resistance covers over the seats.

The EPA administrator is facing mounting criticism and numerous investigations related to his unethical behaviors, including his use of his round-the-clock security for personal trips, such as with his family to Disneyland or sports events. Pruitt is set to testify before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on May 16 where he is expected to face more questions over his ethical scandals.