Pruitt asked for 24/7 security before starting at EPA, watchdog says

Pruitt asked for 24/7 security before starting at EPA, watchdog says
© Greg Nash

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog says agency failed to properly monitor asbestos at schools| Watchdog won’t investigate former Superfund head’s qualifications| Florence causes toxic coal ash spill in North Carolina White House officials discussing potential replacements for FEMA chief: report Trump’s EPA chooses coal over the American people MORE asked for a 24/7 security detail, which he has blamed on security threats, before he ever started working at the agency, the EPA’s internal watchdog said Monday.

“EPA’s Protective Service Detail began providing 24/7 coverage of the Administrator the first day he arrived,” Inspector General Arthur Elkins wrote in a letter to a pair of Democratic senators who had asked numerous questions about Pruitt's security. “The decision was made by the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training after being informed that Mr. Pruitt requested 24/7 protection once he was confirmed as Administrator.”

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The revelation comes despite arguments by Pruitt and others at the EPA that officials decided to give him round-the-clock security — costing taxpayers around $3 million to date — due to threats leveled against him since he started his position.

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) doesn’t provide the security or make decisions regarding it.

But Pruitt has justified the need for the detail — unprecedented among EPA leaders — with what he’s called a “threat assessment,” in which the OIG last year tallied a number of potential threats it investigated against him.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox defended Pruitt by pointing out that the OIG did not make the call.

“As the report says, EPA’s Office of Inspector General does not determine security assessments. EPA’s Protective Service Detail handles security decisions and this particular decision was made before Administrator Pruitt arrived at EPA,” Wilcox said.

Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperPrimary turnout soars in 2018 with Dems leading charge Cynthia Nixon camp partially blames high turnout for loss Raimondo beats back primary challenge in Rhode Island MORE (D-Del.) and Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems sue Archives to try to force release of Kavanaugh documents Dems call on Senate to postpone Kavanaugh vote Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski MORE (D-R.I.), who asked Elkins for the information, said in a statement that the letter calls Pruitt’s statements about his security into question.

“A threat to a federal employee’s personal security is extremely serious, but so is using security as pretext for special treatment on the public dime,” they said in a statement.

“This letter raises troubling questions about whether Administrator Pruitt told the truth during his testimony before the House. Now more than ever, Mr. Pruitt should come clean about his spending of taxpayer dollars on all manner of extravagances, and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle should demand he do so.”

Pruitt is scheduled to testify Wednesday before the Senate Appropriations Committee subpanel with authority over the EPA’s budget, but neither Carper nor Whitehouse is on that panel.

Elkins also stated in his letter that he never signed off on Pruitt’s 24/7 security. He also disputed Pruitt’s description of the tally of threats against him last year, saying it is not a “threat assessment” and should not be interpreted as an authoritative list of legitimate threats.

“It does not necessarily mean that every case opened as a ‘threat investigation’ reveals evidence of an actual threat,” Elkins write. “EPA IG plays no role in determining how the agency protects the administrator.”

Elkins also stated that the document was not meant to be released outside of the EPA, and was only prepared because Pruitt’s security detail asked for it as part of their preparation of a “threat assessment.”