The Environmental Protection Agency moves agents from investigating environmental crimes to protecting agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who has needed three times as many on his personal security detail than the number who served under his predecessor in the Obama administration.
Scott Pruitt’s round-the-clock personal security detail, which demands triple the manpower of his predecessors at the Environmental Protection Agency, has prompted officials to rotate in agents from around the U.S. who otherwise would be investigating environmental crimes, the Washington Post reports. The EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance has summoned agents from various cities to serve two-week stints helping guard Pruitt. While hiring in many departments is frozen, the agency has sought an exception to hire additional full-time staff to protect Pruitt.
When the former Oklahoma attorney general assumed his post in February, aides requested 24/7 federal protection. “This never happened with prior administrators,” said Michael Hubbard, who led the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division in Boston. The practice has rankled some employees and critics, who note that the EPA’s criminal enforcement efforts are understaffed and that the Trump administration has proposed further cuts. “These guys signed on to work on complex environmental cases, not to be an executive protection detail,” Hubbard said. “It’s not only not what they want to do, it’s not what they were trained and paid to do.” While the agency does not discuss the number of threats against Pruitt or others at the EPA, it did say investigators have opened more cases this fiscal year than in fiscal 2016. Thirty-two percent were aimed at Pruitt — including “some very personal, ugly threats,” said Patrick Sullivan, the EPA assistant inspector general for investigations — compared with 9 percent directed at his predecessor Gina McCarthy in fiscal 2016. McCarthy and Lisa Jackson, each of whom led the EPA under President Obama and also were controversial, had security teams composed of about a half-dozen individuals. Pruitt’s security detail has swelled to about 18 people.