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 PruittOvernight Energy: Flint residents can sue EPA over water crisis | Environmentalists see victory with Green New Deal blitz | March global temperatures were second hottest on record | EPA told to make final decision on controversial pesticide Court orders EPA to make final decision on banning controversial pesticide Former EPA chief Scott Pruitt registers as lobbyist in Indiana 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 CarperOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Koch network launches ad campaign opposing Trump's proposed gas tax Big Dem names show little interest in Senate MORE (D-Del.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseHillicon Valley: Washington preps for Mueller report | Barr to hold Thursday presser | Lawmakers dive into AI ethics | FCC chair moves to block China Mobile | Dem bill targets 'digital divide' | Microsoft denies request for facial recognition tech Dems introduce bill to tackle 'digital divide' Senators press drug industry 'middlemen' over high prices 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 BarrassoOvernight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use GOP senator issues stark warning to Republicans on health care Judd Gregg: In praise of Mike Enzi 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.