Federal agents opened an investigation into a woman who claimed the ramblings of a liberal talk show host and a belly full of beer prompted her to threaten EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on social media.
An Arkansas resident wrote “a threatening post” on Twitter last April against Pruitt, according to a report Friday from E&E News. EPA and FBI agents in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas began a probe shortly after the comments went public.
“[Redacted] stated [redacted] was drinking while watching the Rachel Maddow show and posted the tweets as a flippant comment, not realizing at the time that they could be considered a threat,” said the report, which was based on an interview with the person who wrote the tweet.
The Twitter threats were posted April 8, 2017. An EPA IG special agent in Washington spotted them online shortly thereafter. Another agent in Dallas began coordinating an investigation with an FBI agent in Little Rock, Ark., the bureau’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Tulsa, and the Oklahoma city’s police department. The person behind the tweets was interviewed April 12.
EPA’s watchdog opened 70 threat investigations last year, including cases related to the agency’s facilities and personnel, Patrick Sullivan, EPA’s assistant IG for investigations, said in an interview with E&E News. There were only 45 such probes in 2016.
Threats against officials at the EPA have spiked 50 percent during 2017, according to an NBC report from last year. None of the threats resulted in injuries, but they were deemed legitimate risks to officials. Sullivan told reporters at NBC last year that the agency is effectively tackling the situation.
“I do feel we’ve prevented acts of violence through our investigations. I feel very confident we have,” Sullivan told reporters at NBC at the time. Threats on Pruitt were responsible for the sharp uptick.
“Sometimes people are mentally ill,” he said. “Sometimes they’re members of radical groups on the left side of the political spectrum or the right side. Sometimes they’re members of domestic terrorism organizations.”
Most of the threats stem from the politically volatile atmosphere created after President Donald Trump started rolling back several of his Democratic predecessor’s climate regulations.
Trump and Pruitt have managed to nix more than 50 of former President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations, including the Paris climate agreement and the so-called Clean Power Plan — both of which targeted emissions from coal power plants across the country.
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