Energy & Environment

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 Pruitt’s office.

In a letter to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Monday, the lawmakers say the April sweep didn’t meet government standards.

The Democrats, led by Sens. Tom Carper (Del.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (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 Cummings (D-Md.), Gerry Connolly (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.

Tags Elijah Cummings Environmental Protection Agency Gerry Connolly Scott Pruitt Sheldon Whitehouse Tom Carper Trey Gowdy
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