EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt brings his security detail with him just about everywhere, including personal trips, according to a letter from a Democratic senator obtained by CNN.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island said he has new evidence, given to him confidentially by an anonymous source, that Pruitt uses his expensive security detail on non-official business trips, including vacations to Disneyland, the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, and back home to Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Whitehouse said he wants to see these new details added to the inspector general's ongoing investigation into Pruitt's security and travel expenses.
Pruitt has come under fire recently for his reported 24/7 security detail.
"While I consider matters of personal security to be extremely serious, personal security should never be used as a pretext to obtain special treatment," Whitehouse told CNN.
When asked for a response to the letter, the EPA told the network, "Administrator Pruitt follows the same security protocol whether he's in his personal or official capacity," but declined to give details on those protocols.
Pruitt's EPA has long claimed that his extensive security detail is justified because he and his family have received credible death threats dating back to 2017.
Patrick Sullivan, the EPA's assistant inspector general for investigations, told CNN that Pruitt has received four to five times the amount of death threats as previous EPA chief Gina McCarthy. As of November, the number of threats was reportedly more than 70.
Conservative commentators have been quick to take Pruitt's side, suggesting the left is simply making partisan attacks and ignoring security concerns.
To be fair, many of Pruitt's critics on the political left have been rather flippant about the death threats. Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum wondered if perhaps Pruitt is just being paranoid, and SFGate columnist Mark Morford wrote a sarcastic rant about Pruitt in which he mused that perhaps "Mother Nature" was behind the threats.
Political prodding aside, the truth is that an excessive hazard of violence would undermine the functioning of our democratic institutions, and the current EPA is justified in taking security concerns seriously. That said, there are still many unexplained spending decisions in this highly secretive EPA administration, including a $43,000 soundproof phone booth built in Pruitt's office, Pruitt's habit of flying himself and his security first class, and his frequent trips to Oklahoma.
The inspector general is currently investigating Pruitt's spending decisions, and it remains to be seen how much of them are justified. But whatever his spending habits, Pruitt is a man who can be properly described as a climate change denier — a position which is far more dangerous than a trip to Disneyland.