WaPo: Pruitt spent nearly $68,000 for recent travel

WaPo: Pruitt spent nearly $68,000 for recent travel
Posted at 11:41 AM, Mar 21, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency has handed documents to Congress that show new travel expenses from agency administrator Scott Pruitt, totaling some $68,000 in hotel stays and air travel, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The documents, which were requested by House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy and obtained by the Post, reportedly show that Pruitt traveled on government business dozens of time on first-class and domestic flights from August 2017 through February 2018.

The reported expenses include a four-day, $17,631 trip to Morocco in December, a series of first-class flights following Hurriciane Harvey totaling $3,330, and a two-day domestic trip for media interviews and a visit to Florida that amounted to $3,767. Pruitt's travel expenses listed in the records reportedly do not include the costs of his security team or aides who travel with him.

The EPA justified the travel spending as necessary to ensure Pruitt's security.

"EPA's Protective Service Detail identified specific ongoing threats associated with Administrator Pruitt's travel and shifted his class based on certain security protocols that require him to be near the front of the plane," said Jahan Wilcox, a spokesperson for the agency.

Previously, CNN reported that from June through August 2017, the EPA justified several expensive charter flights for Pruitt -- including a $14,000 bill for a business trip around his home state.

In late August, the EPA inspector general announced it would investigate Pruitt's travel practices. Since beginning the probe, the IG has twice expanded its scope, which now encompasses all of Pruitt's 2017 taxpayer-funded travel.

According to an earlier Post analysis of other EPA records, Pruitt's travel choices distinguish him from his predecessors in that he brings a larger group of aides with him on trips, he usually flies first or business class on international and domestic trips, and he often flies Delta Airlines even though the government has contracts with certain airlines on specific routes.

In response to the travel probes, earlier this month Pruitt said he'll be seeking alternative accommodations -- including potentially flying in coach class -- on his "very next flight."

Other Trump administration Cabinet secretaries have attracted scrutiny of their travel spending, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who resigned after using private planes for multiple government business trips.

Pruitt has also been under scrutiny for the costs the agency has accrued changing EPA headquarters, including a $25,000 secure phone booth for Pruitt's calls.

Other Cabinet members' spending for office renovations has been criticized recently. Zinke's office doors were to be replaced to the the tune of nearly $139,000. The department later said it would obtain the doors at a reduced price. And last month, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson withdrew his request for a $31,000 dining room set for his office. Hetold Congress this week that the redecorating decision was left to his wife.