Two news outlets have obtained an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document they claim to be the memo used to justify EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s first class flights.
The memo was obtained by The Washington Post and E&E News through Freedom of Information Act requests. In the memo, Pruitt’s then-head of security Nino Perrotta asked “that he be placed in either business or first class accommodations,” the news outlets reported. Perrotta retired on April 30 after serving at EPA for 14 years.
However, the memo is not signed, and is addressed to Gail Davis, EPA’s travel coordinator. Two sources said Pruitt would have needed approval from Jeanne Conklin, the acting controller in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, to fly first class.
Perrotta and other security agents needed approval to fly first class from Henry Barnet, the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training. Approval for Pruitt and agents to fly first class were granted on a case-by-case basis, according to EPA.
“It made no sense not to have an agent in close proximity,” a source familiar with Pruitt’s security arrangements told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Clearly it was based on the kinds of incidents both on airplanes and inside the airport grounds,” the source said. “We had to go to a regular practice of requesting armed police escorts in airports, even on connecting flights.”
But reporting on the memo also highlights the role that top EPA career officials played in approving Pruitt’s waiver so he could fly first class. The two sources said any request for first class flights would have had to go up the chain of command for approval.
Barnet and Conklin did approve Pruitt, and whatever agent accompanied him on travel, to fly first class or business class, the sources said. WaPo confirmed top EPA career officials had to approve of Pruitt’s first class travel.
Perrotta wrote the short May 2017 memo to Davis after meeting with EPA’s Office of General Counsel, one source told TheDCNF. Perrotta met with the Office of General Counsel’s Elise Packard for advice on what language should be used to obtain approval to fly first class.
“Unequivocally, he was easily the most recognizable and controversial administrator,” a second source told TheDCNF.
Pruitt’s come under fire for alleged spending and ethical issues, including frequently flying first class. Barnet told WaPo in February Pruitt’s first class travel approval provided “a buffer” between the administrator and people “acting toward him in a threatening manner.”
Democrats are calling on Pruitt to resign as reports critical of Pruitt continue to trickle out, and at least one Republican, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, has called into question Pruitt’s need for extra security.
EPA has maintained Pruitt’s faced an unprecedented number of death threats, prompting extra security concerns. Perrotta told TheDCNF in an exclusive interview “there were instances that were very disturbing to me” when he served on Pruitt’s detail.
WaPo also obtained FOIAed documents showing “EPA was working on 33 threat investigations as of mid-March,” they reported. “Ten of those in fiscal 2018 involved Pruitt.”
“People who say this guy would not be recognized — that’s just not true,” one source told TheDCNF, noting “instance after instance where people recognized him and said some pretty vulgar things about him.”
“There were people in the media and other environmental groups that had a bullseye on this guy,” the source said.
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