Amid travel criticism, Pruitt canceled trips for which he already had tickets

Amid travel criticism, Pruitt canceled trips for which he already had tickets
© Greg Nash

Facing bipartisan criticism over his travel expenses, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittCalifornia has sued the Trump administration 46 times. Here are the lawsuits Overnight Energy: Justices take up major case on water rules | Dems probe administration's dealings with Saudi Arabia | Greens sue EPA over toxic paint strippers Environmental groups sue EPA in bid to ban toxic paint strippers MORE in April canceled a pair of official trips for which he had already bought tickets, new records show.

Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that Pruitt had spent $909.97 for flights for an April 9 to 11 trip to Mexico City and San Diego, which was later canceled.

He also spent $1,314.44 for flights to and from northwestern Arkansas on April 16 and 18, the records show, although though the agency was able to get $450.60 of that refunded.

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Pruitt resigned in July under pressure after months of ethics and spending scandals. A main source of his problems was his use of taxpayer money, including frequent first-class travel and a trip to Italy last year that cost more than $100,000, when the costs of aides’ travel and hotels are included.

The months before the planned trips saw numerous reports about Pruitt’s travel expenses, but it’s unclear if that controversy spurred the cancelation.

The Washington Post reported on the scheduled trip to Mexico in February.

Pruitt also canceled planned trips to Israel and Australia, and the Post said Japan and Canada were also in the mix for potential visits. Aides made an advance trip to Australia before Pruitt was due to go, at a cost of about $45,000.

The former Oklahoma attorney general also went to Morocco last year, partially to promote exports of liquefied natural gas from the United States.

The EPA didn’t respond to The Hill’s requests for comment.

In justifying the Mexico trip, the EPA wrote in the records that it “will include bilateral meetings” with Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, the country’s secretary of environment and natural resources.

The purpose of the San Diego leg of the trip was for Pruitt to see the United States-Mexico border. He was the lead official in the United States for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a U.S.-Mexico-Canada program to help coordinate cross-border environmental issues.

The documents said Pruitt “will engage in planning and will capitalize in accomplishments that directly impact our communities and its citizens.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE has famously pledged to build a massive wall along the border with Mexico as an immigration enforcement effort, and initially he promised to make Mexico pay for it. He has since pressed Congress to fund the wall, though lawmakers have been resistant.

The northwestern Arkansas trip was meant to promote Pruitt’s efforts to repeal the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule, accelerate cleanups of contaminated Superfund sites and replace lead drinking water pipes, the EPA documents show.

The EPA’s records also did not show the travel costs for any staffers Pruitt would have brought with him, his security detail, security costs or other expenses. He had planned to fly coach class since pledging in February that he would stop taking first or business class for every trip.