Embattled Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt spent even more taxpayer money on security expenses than previously thought, according to obtained by the Intercept and first reported Wednesday night. The expenses include nearly $3,000 for “tactical pants” and “tactical polos,” part of a total $4.6 million for security, representing a $1.1 million increase over the amount disclosed by the EPA a month ago.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveal that Pruitt’s spending habits surpass the millions he is already known to have spent on security, travel, and other expenses, including a $43,000 sound proof phone booth installed in his office. According to the latest documents, Pruitt spent $288,610 on security costs in April alone. Of that, more than $2,700 was spent on apparel for the pants and polos. The EPA administrator has spent $24,115 on body armor and related apparel in 2018.
Other costs revealed by the documents include $88,603.10 for radios and accompanying components, including holsters, batteries, and antennas. Vests “to provide everyday protection” for certain personnel officers also cost $16,240, while leased vehicles expenses cost $83,400 on one occasion and $67,500 on another.
Henry Barnet, director for the EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, and Training, downplayed the expenditures in a statement, arguing they were standard costs.
“These are routine expenditures for our Criminal Investigative Division (CID) and Protective Security Detail (PSD) agents to have proper attire for search warrants, arrests, disaster responses, and training. This attire is not used for protection work,” Barnet told the Hill.
Pruitt is currently the subject of more than a dozen ongoing federal investigations. Numerous documents obtained via FOIA by various publications and organizations have indicated that Pruitt has spent millions of taxpayer dollars on security costs, in addition to relying on industry insiders and lobbyists to help arrange his travel and obtain tickets to sporting events.
The administrator is slated to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in August where he’ll likely face questions over the many ongoing investigations. Democrats have pushed the EPA watchdog overseeing the investigations to accelerate their efforts in advance of that time.
The former Oklahoma attorney general first came under scrutiny regarding potential ethics violations and mismanagement after it was revealed he obtained a sweetheart condo deal arranged last year with the wife of J. Steven Hart, a prominent energy lobbyist. Hart’s former firm, Williams & Jensen, has disclosed that Hart had official business before the EPA at the time of the deal. Hart also pushed his client’s nominees for the EPA’s non-partisan Science Advisory Board in a letter sent to Pruitt on August 10, 2017.
Many of Pruitt’s scandals, however, center on his using taxpayer money for what has widely been seen as extravagant purchases. This includes $3,230 spent at a Washington, D.C. jewelry store, including $1,560 for 12 fountain pens. An investigation into Pruitt’s $43,000 sound proof phone booth found that the expense violated federal spending laws.
Pruitt has also used security concerns to justify his first-class travel habits, claiming the upgraded flights represent a safety measure. The EPA also requested $70,000 for a bulletproof desk in Pruitt’s office, meant to replace two pre-existing desks. That request went unfulfilled, but Pruitt was successful in obtaining a car upgrade, swapping in his official vehicle for one with bullet-resistant seat covers.
In recent days, a growing number of conservative commentators have called for Pruitt’s resignation, including Laura Ingraham, a conservative Fox News commentator. Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe (R), a close friend of Pruitt’s, initially indicated he was beginning to have doubts about the EPA administrator last week, before walking those comments back on Wednesday. During a news conference that day, Inhofe said he was “a little embarrassed” to have doubted Pruitt, and reiterated his support for the official.