Cost of Pruitt’s Italy trip rises above $84,000
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt spent more than $30,000 on security related expenses during his travel to Italy last summer, official documents show.
New EPA travel documents show Pruitt’s personal security detail racked up $30,553.80 in travel expenses between June 5 and 12 of last year. Added to previously disclosed costs, the documents put the total taxpayer cost of the trip above $84,000.
During that time period, Pruitt was visiting Italy for meetings at the Vatican and to meet with international energy ministers at a summit. The administrator heavily photographed and tweeted about his time abroad.
Travel vouchers previously obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) put the cost to taxpayers above $53,000 for the Italy trip, but did not include costs for his 24-hour security detail.
EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said the cost for Pruitt’s security detail followed protocol.
“Administrator Pruitt’s security detail followed the same procedures for the G7 environmental meeting in Italy that were used during EPA Administrators Stephen Johnson, Lisa Jackson, and Gina McCarthy’s trips to Italy. EPA’s security procedures have not deviated over the past 14 years,” Wilcox said.
Pruitt’s own first-class tickets for the trip cost more than $7,000 and included a return flight on Emirates, an airline that boasts one of the most luxurious first-class services in the world.
Pruitt and his aides also took a military plane from Cincinnati to New York City in order to catch the Rome flight after an infrastructure event with President Trump. If that $36,000 flight were included in the total for the Italy trip, it would cost more than $120,000.
An EPA spokesperson previously said the first-class travel was approved through a waiver.
The EIP first obtained the new travel documents Monday after filing a lawsuit against the EPA in September to compel a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Their initial FOIA request, filed in August, requested “records of expenditures for all travel outside of Washington, DC by Administrator Pruitt, as well as any EPA staff that accompanied Administrator Pruitt” on his Italy trip.
“That’s a lot of money for Mr. Pruitt to tour the Vatican, pose for photos, and tell his European counterparts that global warming doesn’t matter. And it doesn’t even include salary costs for everyone who signed up for this tour,” said Eric Schaeffer, the EIP’s director and former director of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement, in a statement.
The new documents come after significant scrutiny and criticism of Pruitt for his travel costs. The EPA’s Office of Inspector General has a number of probes into Pruitt’s travel, including his use of a round-the-clock security team.
Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to have a 24-hour detail, a decision he said was made by security officials. The detail cost more than $830,000 in his first three months in office, E&E News reported.
The administrator has also faced criticism for flying luxury class during business travel. During much of his tenure at the EPA, Pruitt has only flown first or business class, which the agency argued was necessary for security purposes.
“The quantity and type of threats that I face are unprecedented. They wanted me on a position on the plane to be able to exit expeditiously if an incident arose, and that’s why the change arose,” Pruitt said of his security detail in an interview last month with CBS News’s Major Garrett.
Pruitt has joined numerous Cabinet secretaries in attracting criticism for their use of taxpayer money.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson have each had spending-related controversies, while former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned due to a scandal regarding his use of charter planes.
–This report was updated at 1:33 p.m.