Following a Democratic senator’s request, the Environmental Protection Agency inspector general has opened up yet another investigation into EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.
Arthur Elkins, inspector general of the EPA, responded to Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s request to look into Pruitt’s “unprecedented use” of security while on personal trips. Elkins’ office will be reviewing the matter, the EPA IG announced in a Wednesday letter to Whitehouse.
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) April 19, 2018
In his request to the EPA IG on March 20, Whitehouse argued Pruitt’s frequent use of a security detail amounted to “preferential treatment.”
The EPA chief is receiving heavy criticism for having taxpayer-funded security accompany him on personal trips. Such personal destinations include the Rose Bowl tournament, college basketball games and even Disneyland.
Reports of a new investigation are just the latest in a growing list of inquiries into Pruitt’s actions as he’s taken the helm the EPA. The embattled administrator is already under investigation for his spending habits, including first-class service on airplanes. Additionally, the White House budget office is reviewing the EPA’s decision to spend $43,000 on a soundproof phone booth. Inquiries began when Pruitt was discovered to have been renting a room for $50 a night from a wife of a prominent energy lobbyist.
However, Pruitt’s use of security and first-class air travel was made out of safety concerns, the EPA argued. Pruitt has been the target of aggression and profane language at airports since leading the agency.
“He was approached in the airport numerous times, to the point of profanities being yelled at him and so forth,” EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement Director Henry Barnet explained in a report published on February 15. “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.”
Amid all the uproar, many conservatives have come to Pruitt’s defense, pointing to the success he’s had at undoing numerous Obama-era regulations. The EPA chief has chipped away at numerous rules, such as the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the U.S. rule. Up to $1 billion in regulations were repealed in Pruitt’s first year, the agency’s year-in-review report claimed. It’s because of these actions he has become a target for liberals, allies say.
For example, The Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel criticized the wave of anti-Pruitt stories following the first-class controversy, pointing out EPA officials in the Obama administration spent more on travel.
This Pruitt flap is absurd. Obama EPA officials spent as much or more on travel. And career EPA ethics officials say he paid “reasonable market value” for the condo, and leasor had no business in front of EPA. The press might at least try to pretend it didn’t have two standards.
— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) April 3, 2018
And for the record, I acknowledge Pruitt has also tallied some domestic security costs. But if you were facing daily death threats, your security detail might also think it best that you fly first class. No?
— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) April 4, 2018
Additionally, The Federalist Senior Editor Mollie Hemingway came to Pruitt’s defense in an April 4 op-ed. The “coordinated attempt to oust” Pruitt is about getting rid of President Donald Trump’s most effective agency leader, Hemingway argued.
“For many people on the left, EPA regulations touch on quasi-religious views,” she wrote. “They recognize that he’s not just a problem but a big problem. That’s why we’re witnessing the coordinated hits on him.”
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