A letter from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Inspector General kicked off a wave of reports claiming Administrator Scott Pruitt requested a 24/7 security detail when he was confirmed in 2017.
However, The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained emails that show EPA officials discussed options to enhance Pruitt’s security before the Senate confirmed him. In fact, a member of President Donald Trump’s “beachhead” team at EPA requested beefed up security for Pruitt as a precautionary measure.
“Also, I have requested 24/7 protection for the new administrator for the first week at least and the evaluate from there,” Donald Benton, a former Washington state senator and head of the EPA beachhead team, wrote in an email dated Feb. 11, 2017.
“There will be Executive Orders signed when he is sworn in that will likely stir the hornets [sic] nest and with the security issue in the Atlanta office last week as well as the lady who threatened former administrator McCarthy not showing up for court and at large in DC it is best to be on the safe side,” Benton wrote.
The inspector general’s office sent a letter to Democrats on Monday over a supposed “threat assessment,” but one passage caught media attention. EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training approved Pruitt’s request for 24/7 security made “once he was confirmed as Administrator,” the letter stated.
The IG’s letter undermined Pruitt’s claims his detail was based on security threats, some outlets suggested. The letter suggested Pruitt lied to Congress about the threats he faced, Democrats said.
This passage about Scott Pruitt in the EPA OIG letter seems to severely undermine the claim that Pruitt only requested 24/7 security after facing threats in office https://t.co/V2vDPZbQW4 pic.twitter.com/1vodiLfOpO
— Sarah Westwood (@sarahcwestwood) May 14, 2018
However, TheDCNF obtained emails showing Pruitt’s 24/7 detail was requested before he arrived at EPA. Former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman also had 24/7 security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the emails also show.
Also, “Education Secretary Betsy DeVos received a full protective detail, at an estimated initial cost of $1 million a month,” not long after Trump’s administration took over in 2017, The Washington Post reported. Security for cabinet-level officials varies agency to agency.
“EPA’s Protective Service Detail handles security decisions, and this particular decision was made before Administrator Pruitt arrived at EPA.” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in an emailed statement.
Benton “asked for a rough estimate of the cost to provide 24/7 [protection services detail] coverage to the new administrator — beyond the portal to portal cost,” a Feb. 8, 2017, email from EPA official Reginald Allen noted.
EPA security officials followed up on Allen’s request in a series of emails sent Feb. 9, discussing how many agents would be needed, the cost, and possible alternatives to providing Pruitt with more security.
“Clearly we’ve thought about this before,” Eric Weese, the former acting special agent in charge of the security detail, wrote to EPA officials on Feb. 9, adding the agency “did the exact same thing for Whitman in 2001.”
The Senate confirmed Pruitt on Feb. 17. Nino Perrotta, who retired at the end of April 2018, soon replaced Weese. Perrotta oversaw Pruitt’s security detail for the last year. Before that, he served in the Secret Service. (RELATED: Scott Pruitt’s Head Bodyguard Takes On The ‘False Dirty Laundry’ Being Spread About EPA [VIDEO])
Pruitt has come under fire for first class flights, renting a room from a D.C. lobbyist’s wife, and increasing security spending. Pruitt has faced an “unprecedented” number of threats, but his critics are increasingly calling into question that claim, EPA said.
The IG’s letter to Democrats on Monday provided more ammunition for Pruitt’s detractors. The IG’s office was responding to a request from Delaware Sen. Tom Carper and other Democrats on Pruitt’s citing of a “threat assessment” the IG conducted.
The IG’s letter said they “never conducted a ‘threat assessment'” for Pruitt but instead compiled a factual report on the threats against the administrator “but also other factors, such as notoriety, history of threats or violence directed against the person or event, other dangers or potentials dangers that may be associated with the person or event, and location.”
The IG document Pruitt referred to was meant to inform Perrotta, Pruitt’s security head of threat investigations. The IG’s report detailed 14 threats against Pruitt, ranging from threatening mail to Facebook posts.
“Pruitt, I’m gonna find you and put a bullet between your eyes. Don’t think I’m joking. I’m planning this,” read one threat posted on social media, according to the IG’s report.