Files undercut Pruitt's need for 1st-class travel

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WASHINGTON — An assessment of threats aimed at Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, conducted by the agency's Homeland Security office in February undercuts claims made by Pruitt's security team to try to justify millions of dollars in security expenditures, according to an internal document obtained by a Senate Democrat.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island wrote in a letter Tuesday to John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, that the EPA's Homeland Security Intelligence Team reviewed an October memo and found no specific credible threats to the administrator. The October memo was created by Pruitt's protective security detail, led by Pasquale Perrotta, who is known as Nino, and was used to try to justify much of Pruitt's large security detail and first-class travel.

The same February assessment described repeated efforts by EPA intelligence officials to tell the agency's inspector general and senior leadership "that 'the threat' to the Administrator was being inappropriately mischaracterized" by Pruitt's security detail, Whitehouse wrote in the letter, sent jointly with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

"It is hard to reconcile the public statements of E.P.A., and the President, with these internal and external assessments," Whitehouse and Carper wrote. They also acknowledged, though, that the materials might be incomplete. The documents weren't publicly released with the letter, they said, to protect any current security efforts that might be in effect.

But, they added, "Another view is that certain factions within E.P.A. have justified the exorbitant taxpayer spending incurred by the Administrator's first-class travel and large entourage of security personnel through unsubstantiated claims about threats to his security, either at the direction of the Administrator himself or others in the agency."

The Associated Press reported last week that Pruitt has spent about $3 million on security, a figure confirmed by The New York Times. That amount includes travel and overtime pay for Pruitt's round-the-clock detail of security officers.

The EPA could not be immediately reached for comment on the senator's letter.

Pruitt has been under fire in recent weeks for reports that he rented a condo for $50 a night from the wife of a lobbyist with business before his agency, spent at least $120,000 in taxpayer-funded first-class travel, and retaliated against staff members who questioned his spending and the need for a security force more than three times the size of past administrators.

Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman for the agency, has, in the past, cited the EPA inspector general's office, which has noted death threats against the administrator and his family. "Americans should all agree that members of the president's Cabinet should be kept safe from these violent threats," Wilcox said last week.

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