EPA requested 24/7 security for Pruitt on day one, internal watchdog says

EPA requested 24/7 security for Pruitt on day one, internal watchdog says

May 14, 2018, 7:34 PM

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt requested a 24/7 security detail when he was confirmed as administrator, according to a publicly released letter from an internal watchdog to members of Congress.

According to the internal watchdog's letter, the EPA division that oversees security and criminal investigations made the decision "after being informed that Mr. Pruitt requested 24/7 protection once he was confirmed as Administrator. The OIG played no role in this decision."

The agency's inspector general, an independent watchdog office that investigates threats against EPA employees, said in letters to two Democratic senators Monday that the EPA began providing Pruitt with a 24/7 detail on his first day as the administrator.

Pruitt and the EPA have previously said that his upgraded security and first-class flights were recommended because of an "unprecedented" number of threats against him compared to threats against previous administrators.

“As the report says, EPA’s Office of Inspector General does not determine security assessments. EPA’s Protective Service Detail handles security decisions and this particular decision was made before Administrator Pruitt arrived at EPA,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told ABC News in a statement.

Pruitt cited a document from the inspector general's office when asked about the need for increased security in a hearing before a House subcommittee last month. He read from a summary of threats prepared by the inspector general's office, including a Facebook message dated May 21 that said: "I hope your father dies soon."

An investigation into that specific threat was closed, according to reports provided to ABC News through a Freedom of Information Act Request, and investigators suspected the Facebook account was deleted.

"The inspector general has noticed that the threats against me have been unprecedented compared to previous administrators as it relates to the number, as also the type of threats. And that dictated the changes that were made in my travel. I was flying coach last year until those changes were made based upon security assessments," he told a House appropriations subcommittee.

Pruitt said in March that he would direct his staff to book him on more coach flights.

Pruitt was sworn in as EPA administrator on February 17, 2017. The EPA's internal investigative office has completed investigations into 14 threats directed at Pruitt and his family, three of which are dated before he was sworn in.

The reports, provided to ABC News through a Freedom of Information Act request, show that most of the incidents were not seen as an immediate threat or that the Justice Department did not pursue charges. At least two investigations are still pending but the inspector general's office would not confirm any information about ongoing investigations.

The inspector general's office is currently looking into the cost of Pruitt's security detail and travel, as well as other questions about his rental arrangement in a condo connected to lobbyists.

The letter from Inspector General Arthur Elkins answered questions from the ranking member of the Senate committee with oversight of EPA, Sen. Tom Carper from Delaware, and another Democrat on the committee Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island.

“A threat to a federal employee’s personal security is extremely serious, but so is using security as pretext for special treatment on the public dime,” Carper and Whitehouse said in a statement about the letter. “This letter raises troubling questions about whether Administrator Pruitt told the truth during his testimony before the House. Now more than ever, Mr. Pruitt should come clean about his spending of taxpayer dollars on all manner of extravagances, and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle should demand he do so.”

Pruitt is scheduled to testify for a Senate appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday.