EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt began flying first class in May when his security team determined that it would help him avoid confrontations, Henry Barnet, the director of the EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, told Politico on Thursday.
Barnet said that Pruitt “was approached in the airport numerous times, to the point of profanities being yelled at him and so forth.” He did not say what incident in May prompted the switch in protocol, but he offered an example from October.
Someone approached Pruitt and said, “‘Scott Pruitt, you’re f—ing up the environment,’ those sort of terms,” Barnet told Politico.
Barnet said that Pruitt’s team leader determined that flying first class would help Pruitt avoid any confrontations.
“The team leader felt that he was being placed in a situation where he was unsafe on the flight,” Barnet told Politico. “We felt that based on the recommendation from the team leader, the special agent in charge, that it would be better suited to have him in business or first class, away from close proximity from those individuals who were approaching him and being extremely rude, using profanities and potential for altercations and so forth.”
Pruitt has faced an uptick in threats from previous EPA administrators, but none of those threats were related to air travel, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General told Politico.
The EPA administrator has come under scrutiny for taking several first class flights, some on short trips up and down the east coast, and another flight across the Atlantic. He is one of several Trump cabinet officials who have taken several first class or non-commercial flights during their short tenure.
Pruitt has also stepped up his security compared to past EPA administrators and is accompanied by a 24/7 security detail.