EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt requested a 24/7 security detail “once he was confirmed” to lead the agency, the EPA’s inspector general said Monday.
The 24/7 protection, which has cost taxpayers $3 million, began “the first day he arrived” at the agency, Inspector General Arthur Elkins told Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Tom Carper (D-DE).
The Inspector General was responding to specific questions from the senators about Pruitt’s justifications to Congress for his security expenses.
Pruitt cited a report he claimed had come from the inspector general in congressional hearings last month when asked to justify his security costs. The inspector general clarified Monday that his office plays no role in determining Pruitt’s security detail, and that the document Pruitt cited was not a formal “threat assessment,” but rather a one-off document, a “discretionary choice” made by the OIG Office of Investigations.
That office gave the information to Pruitt’s then-head of security Nino Perrotta, according to the inspector general. “It was marked ‘For Official Use Only’ and was not to be distributed to anyone outside of the EPA,” he wrote. Perrotta announced his resignation earlier this month.
“The OIG plays no role in determining how the agency protects the Administrator or other employees or facilities,” Elkins wrote.
Pruitt’s EPA has claimed before that the administrator faces “an unprecedented amount of death threats against him.” But the fact that Pruitt’s 24/7 detail began its work on his first day as administrator suggests that the security detail was not requested in response to any specific threats.
“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 a statement responding to 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.”
“As the report says, EPA’s Office of Inspector General does not determine security assessments,” Jahan Wilcox, an EPA spokesperson, told the Washington Post in response to the inspector general’s letter. “EPA’s Protective Service Detail handles security decisions and this particular decision was made before Administrator Pruitt arrived at EPA.”
Wilcox’s use of the passive voice aside, the statement does not dispute the inspector general’s finding that Pruitt himself requested the security, and that it was not the result of any recommendation by the inspector general.
This post has been updated.