Washington, DC – In a letter sent to Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Inspector General called into question EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s testimony during two House hearings on April 26 that threats against him have been “unprecedented in terms of quantity and type.” Carper and Whitehouse had written to the Inspector General on May 2 asking for an explanation for whether the EPA’s internal watchdog has formally signed off on spending for Pruitt’s round-the-clock, taxpayer-funded security detail, which has accompanied him on personal travel to the Rose Bowl, Disneyland, and to college basketball. The Inspector General indicates that he never signed off on Pruitt’s security arrangements; that Pruitt himself – not the Inspector General – requested 24-7 security immediately upon being confirmed; that the Inspector General has never conducted a threat assessment for the Administrator; and that the report Pruitt cited as evidence of heightened security risk makes no comparison to risks faced by previous administrators.
“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,” Carper and Whitehouse said in response to the Inspector General’s letter. “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.”
In their May 2 letter, Carper and Whitehouse asked about an August 16 Inspector General document that listed threats against Pruitt, former Administrator McCarthy, and others. In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Appropriations Interior and Environment Subcommittee on April 26, Pruitt claimed that report justified his round-the-clock security.
In response, the Inspector General wrote, “The EPA Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training has informed the Inspector General that EPA’s Protective Service Detail began providing 24/7 coverage of the Administrator the first day he arrived at the EPA. 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.”
The Inspector General explained the August 2017 document was the only one of its kind prepared by Inspector General, that it was not a threat assessment, and that it should not be interpreted as Inspector General’s justification for Pruitt’s security spending. “It does not necessarily mean that every case opened [by the Inspector General] as a ‘threat investigation’ reveals evidence of an actual threat…. EPA IG plays no role in determining how the agency protects the administrator….”
The Inspector General also wrote that it was the Special Agent in Charge for Pruitt’s security detail – not the Inspector General or the EPA Office of Homeland Security – who requested the Inspector General’s report. The former head of Pruitt security, Pasqual “Nino” Perrotta, has been at the center of a number of controversies over security spending at the EPA, including a contract to his business associate to conduct a “bug sweep” of Mr. Pruitt’s office.
The Inspector General’s response to Carper and Whitehouse is available here.