Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt used his own money on weekend flights to Oklahoma to watch football games and taxpayer cash on first-class flights, according to a report Saturday from The Associated Press.
Pruitt dipped into his own pockets for economy flight trips on weekend trips home to watch Oklahoma Sooners football games, an EPA official told the AP. Taxpayers still covered the airfare for the administrator’s security detail, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. Other reports have noted similar occurrences.
AP’s report comes shortly after Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island obtained documents in March showing several dozen EPA security and law enforcement agents were assigned to Pruitt. A summary of the schedules Whitehouse obtained show multiple EPA security agents accompanied Pruitt on a vacation to California that featured a day at Disneyland.
The New York Times published a report Thursday suggesting at least five EPA officials were placed on leave, reassigned or demoted after opposing spending requests on proposals such as a $100,000-a-month private jet membership, and a bulletproof desk for the armed security officer always stationed inside the administrator’s office suite.
Pruitt also reportedly racked up nearly $90,000 in flight expenses in June 2017. Pruitt traveled to Italy in June for meetings at the Vatican and to attend a summit with international energy ministers, CBS noted in a Feb. 13 report. The round trip business-class flight cost at least $7,000, according to the report.
The flurry of reports have relied mostly on anonymous sources, some of whom might be disgruntled former Trump administration officials, according to Inside EPA, an online subscription-based outlet that reports exclusively on EPA-related news.
Former White House official Rob Porter is reportedly one of the leakers, sources told Inside EPA Friday. The leaks were a “tit for tat” for EPA senior counsel Samantha Dravis telling White House counsel Don McGahn that Porter assaulted his two ex-wives, one source said.
Dravis caught Porter with former White House aide Hope Hicks and kicked him out of the apartment they shared, a second source told Inside EPA. Porter was forced to resign in February and may have leaked information Dravis told him about Pruitt. Some suggest the reports are a snow-job designed to force the administrator out of the EPA.
The Wall Street Journal, for one, wants President Donald Trump to buck up and back Pruitt against what the newspaper’s editorial board believes is an internal power move to oust one of the president’s most effective officials.
“Mr. Pruitt’s real sin is that he is one of Mr. Trump’s most aggressive reformers, taking on green idols that others would bow before,” the WSJ’s editorial board wrote Thursday. The board also lashed out at the “ruling iron triangle of bureaucrats” seeking Pruitt’s ouster. Forcing Trump to can the former Oklahoma attorney general will be no small task.
Pruitt nixed the Clean Power Plan, convinced Trump to leave the Paris climate agreement, and, more recently, crafted new and less burdensome greenhouse gas emission and mileage standards for vehicles built in 2022 through 2025. He has almost single-handedly decommissioned former President Barack Obama’s entire environmental agenda.
Pruitt moved to undo, delay or block more than 30 environmental regulations during the first few months of his tenure, which began in January 2017. The rollbacks were more than any other administrator in the agency’s 47-year history over such a short period of time, according to a report in a February 2017 from The New York Times.
Trump does not appear willing to jettison his top EPA guy just yet. The president voiced his support for Pruitt during a Thursday White House press gaggle, telling reporters: “I think he’s done a fantastic job. I think he’s done an incredible job.”
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