Pruitt Grilled About Unprecedented 24/7 Security Detail

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Appropriations Committee during a hearing on the 2019 Fiscal Year EPA budget at the Capitol on April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. Th... WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Appropriations Committee during a hearing on the 2019 Fiscal Year EPA budget at the Capitol on April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The focus of nearly a dozen federal inquiries into his travel expenses, security practices and other issues, Pruitt was on the Hill to testify about his agency's FY2019 budget proposal. (Photo by Alex Edelman/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 16, 2018 11:21 a.m.
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President Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt faced sharp lines of inquiry from Democratic senators at a routine budget hearing Wednesday morning, including questions about his use of a 24/7 security team since the day he took over the agency.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked Pruitt repeatedly if he requested the 24/7 security, questions that Pruitt dodged until Van Hollen’s time expired.

“I was aware of communications taking place,” Pruitt said. “I was not at the agency at the time. That was before [my] confirmation. And the decision to provide 24/7 security was made, as indicated by this report, by law enforcement career officials at the agency.”

The EPA’s Inspector General reported this week that Pruitt did ask for the unusual level of security as soon as he was confirmed, and that the cost of such security has run up a bill of $3 million dollars. The revelation about the early timing of the security request undermines Pruitt’s claims to Congress earlier this year that the stepped-up security was a response to threats against him related to his controversial rollbacks of environmental protections.

In his second round of questioning, Van Hollen tried again, reading directly from the IG report, which contradicts Pruitt’s claim that he was not involved in the decision to provide such an unprecedented level of security for an EPA administrator.

“The decision to provide 24/7 security was made by the Office of Criminal Enforcement after your request for it,” he said, adding dryly: “This is an IG report. I assume they take these things seriously.”

Pruitt doubled down on his denial, saying: “I did not decide or direct that decision to be made. They are the ones that made that decision, according to the document you’re referring to.”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) also asked Pruitt directly if he personally asked for 24/7 security.

“It had already been determined by the Criminal Enforcement Office to provide it,” at the time he was sworn into office, Pruitt answered.

“Well, all the documents dispute that,” Udall countered.

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