EPA removes staffer whose report questioned Pruitt’s security needs: report

EPA removes staffer whose report questioned Pruitt’s security needs: report
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed a career employee Tuesday who signed off on a report that Democrats used to undermine Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittWhat has EPA been hiding about formaldehyde? Overnight Energy: Trump officials suspend oil, gas production on Utah plots after lawsuit | California bucks Trump on lightbulb rollback | Scientists join Dems in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Scientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule MORE’s security needs, Politico reported.

Mario Caraballo was the deputy associate administrator of the EPA's Office of Homeland Security.

His office wrote a report in February evaluating a memo by Pruitt’s security detail that reported various apparent threats against him to justify his need for 24-hour security and first-class flying, among other steps.

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Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOvernight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Liz Cheney applauds Trump for pulling out of Paris climate agreement MORE (D-Del.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocratic senators seek documents on Trump's alleged call for Barr press conference Senate committee advances budget reform plan Bipartisan Enzi-Whitehouse budget bill a very bad fix for deficits MORE (D-R.I.) used the report earlier Tuesday, along with other information from the Secret Service and elsewhere, to call into question Pruitt’s security actions, which have cost millions of dollars.

A source told Politico that the EPA justified firing Caraballo by citing an issue from his military service years ago that had been resolved and reviewed by the EPA, but that agency leaders were unhappy with Caraballo’s report.

The EPA confirmed that Caraballo was removed Tuesday.

"The action today was based on a recommendation by the Office of Administration and Resources Management. I am not aware of any connection between the personnel matter and the document mentioned in media reports," Donna Vizian, the agency's principal deputy assistant administrator, said in a statement, declining to comment further. 

In a joint statement, Carper and Whitehouse called the timing of the firing "deeply troubling."

"This development underscores the need for the Environment and Public Works Committee to conduct effective oversight of the EPA to answer the serious questions that have come to light in recent days concerning management and ethical conduct by the Administrator and his staff," they said.

Carper is the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and Whitehouse is a senior member on that panel.

They used Caraballo’s report, and the other documents, to push Committee Chairman John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoCentrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda Eleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid GOP senators discuss impeachment with Trump after House vote MORE (R-Wyo.) to hold a hearing on Pruitt’s security costs.

Barrasso slammed their letter and said he would not hold a hearing.

“Any reasonable reading of these documents supports the Office of the Inspector General’s statements that Administrator Pruitt faces a ‘variety of direct death threats,’” he said. “This is exactly why members should not publicly disclose information that relates to the safety of a cabinet member.”

— Miranda Green contributed

Updated: 6:22 p.m.