Scott Pruitt’s Embattled Security Chief Resigns

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Environment Subcommittee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The focus of nearly a dozen federal inquiries into his travel expenses, security practices and other issues, Pruitt testified about his agency's FY2019 budget proposal.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

The former Secret Service agent who led EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s multimillion-dollar, 24/7 security detail while also leading his own private security firm resigned Monday, he told ABC News.

“All of this press is taking a toll on my family. I decided to move on and it’s been an honor to serve,” Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta told ABC News. He told the network he would “fully cooperate” with lawmakers probing the EPA, starting with an interview with the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

And so ended the bizarre and twisting narrative of perhaps Pruitt’s most mysterious aide.

Before leading the administrator’s detail, Perrotta worked on the side for the Trump-friendly publisher American Media Inc. during the 2016 election. Led by David J. Pecker, the National Enquirer publisher is now known for the tabloid practice of “catch and kill” — that is, buying and burying stories which Trump, it so happens, benefitted from having buried. Perrotta also published a memoir in 2016 detailing his “battle with the New York Mafia!

CBS News reported last month that Perrotta replaced Pruitt’s existing chief of security, Eric Weese, two weeks after Weese advised Pruitt that his motorcade’s sirens should only be used in emergencies, rather than to cut through Washington, D.C. traffic, as Pruitt wanted.

So began several scandal-plagued months at the EPA, the security chief’s role in which was only reinforced by Pruitt during congressional testimony last week.

Answering lawmakers’ questions, Pruitt spread blame to Perrotta and other top aides for expenditures like the $43,000 phone booth he had installed in his office and the nearly $6,000 the EPA spent on biometric locks, despite Pruitt’s admission that “I just put a code in.”

Still, earlier reporting indicated that Perrotta did indeed encourage Pruitt’s eye-popping security expenditures, everything from unnecessary first-class flights to bullet-resistant seat covers for the administrator’s SUV.

The EPA awarded a business associate of Perrotta’s — Edwin Steinmetz, a vice president at Perrotta’s private security firm, Sequoia — a $3,000 contract to sweep Pruitt’s office for surveillance devices.

Ultimately, according to a letter to the EPA from Democratic lawmakers, that sweep contract was not only improperly awarded, but it also “did not employ the equipment, proper certification, or necessary processes to be approved by the [United States Government] for certifying a USG facility or space for classified information systems or classified discussion.”

Perrotta told ABC News there was no truth, in the network’s words, in the accusation “that he improperly steered an EPA security contract to a business associate.”

Former EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski, now an EPA whistleblower who claims he and others were retaliated against for raising concerns about Pruitt’s spending, told lawmakers last month that Perrotta threatened him in an effort to retrieve his EPA parking pass.

According to a letter from Democratic lawmakers whose staffs spoke to Chmielewski, Perrotta “said that he was going to go to Mr. Chmielewski’s home and forcibly retrieve his EPA parking pass and that he ‘didn’t give a f—k who is on this call.’”

Perrotta told ABC News “there was no threat made on the phone at all.”

Late last month, Perrotta told the New York Times he was “retiring as planned” in the Summer.

He added: “[B]ut has anyone mentioned that I served with honor and distinction the Obama Administration? I served two former Administrators and now to end my career this way is totally unacceptable.”

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