Dems: Pruitt’s office security sweep was subpar

Dems: Pruitt’s office security sweep was subpar
© Greg Nash

A group of congressional Democrats is calling into question the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) security sweep of Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Trump officials gut DC staff for public lands agency to move West | Democrats slam EPA over scientific boards | Deepwater Horizon most litigated environmental issue of decade Democrats, scientists slam Trump administration actions on scientific boards Overnight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits MORE’s office.

In a letter to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyCummings announces expansion of Oversight panel's White House personal email probe, citing stonewalling Pelosi says it's up to GOP to address sexual assault allegation against Trump Our sad reality: Donald Trump is no Eisenhower MORE (R-S.C.) on Monday, the lawmakers say the April sweep didn’t meet government standards.

The Democrats, led by Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperFighting the opioid epidemic: Congress can't just pass laws, but must also push to enforce them Overnight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules when appointing industry leaders to science boards MORE (Del.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits Dem senators demand GOP judicial group discloses donors Senate Democrats skipping Pence's border trip MORE (R.I.), say the EPA’s Homeland Security office had an outside expert in surveillance countermeasures review documents from the $3,000 bug sweep.

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“Based in part on information received from that expert, EPA’s Office of Homeland Security concluded in late April 2017 that the sweep was ‘very basic and cursory’ and ‘did not employ the equipment, proper certification, or necessary processes to be approved by the [government] for certifying a [government] facility or space for classified information systems or classified discussion,’ ” the lawmakers said.

The Monday letter raises numerous red flags about the April 2017 security sweep and other security measures taken by Pruitt. He has been under a nearly constant barrage of controversies in recent weeks, due in part to his spending of taxpayer money for security, which has cost at least $3 million so far.

The sweep was completed by Edwin Steinmetz, a business partner to Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, the head of Pruitt’s security detail.

The Democrats said that when an EPA employee emailed colleagues in February 2017 about doing a sweep of Pruitt’s office, Perrotta interjected to ask them to wait on the process.

The sweep itself was allegedly paid for with an EPA credit card, skipping what the lawmakers say was a required pre-approval process.

The EPA’s Homeland Security office sent the report to seven EPA employees, four of who have been reassigned “or otherwise retaliated against for questioning Administrator Pruitt’s spending or security measures,” wrote Carper and Whitehouse, joined by Reps. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens House poised to hold Barr, Ross in contempt Trump's family separation policy has taken US to 'lowest depth possible,' says former immigration lawyer MORE (D-Md.), Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyFour heated moments from House hearing on conditions at border facilities Ex-ICE chief blasts House Democrat after tense hearing: 'He ran out of there like a little girl' Live coverage: House Oversight examines Trump family separation policy MORE (D-Va.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.).

The Democrats also questioned whether Pruitt was receiving top secret information in his office without the proper facilities needed for viewing or sending it.

Asked to respond to the letter Monday, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox referred to his statement a week earlier when the Government Accountability Office said the EPA broke the law when it spent $43,000 to install a soundproof privacy booth in Pruitt’s office.

“The GAO recognized the ‘need for employees to have access to a secure telephone line’ when handling classified information and did not question EPA’s position that it was an appropriate expenditure,” he said, quoting from the GAO’s report. “EPA disagrees with GAO’s legal conclusion that this expenditure also required notice to Congress, but we are addressing GAO’s concern with regard to congressional notification.”

Gowdy is investigating some of Pruitt’s recent controversies, including his high cost travel, raises given to close aides without White House approval and the condo he rented last year from a lobbyist.