President Donald Trump campaigned for the office he holds by pledging to “drain the swamp.” He repeated the phrase during remarks Thursday at the White House.
Mr. President, it turns out there’s an alligator in your own administration.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has accumulated an astonishing array of wasteful-spending accusations during his time in office.
- Pruitt’s security team currently consists of 19 agents and includes a fleet of at least 19 vehicles, a source with direct knowledge of Pruitt’s security detail said. With the cost of maintenance, gas, and training for agents, that leaves the dollar amount for his round-the-clock security in the millions, CNN reported Sunday. The size of Pruitt’s security is unprecedented. No previous EPA chief has ever received a 24/7 security detail, the agency’s inspector general has said. Last October, CNN reported that salaries alone for his security team cost at least $2 million a year, according to figures compiled by CNN from public documents — a number that does not include the costs of such things as training, equipment and travel.
- The federal government’s top ethics official has taken the unusual step of sending a letter to the EPA questioning a series of actions by Pruitt and asking the agency to take “appropriate actions to address any violations.” The letter, sent to Kevin Minoli, the EPA official designated as the agency’s top ethics official, addresses questions about Pruitt’s rental for $50 a night of a condominium linked to an energy lobbyist, as well as his government-funded flights to his home state of Oklahoma, the New York Times reported Monday. The letter also cites reporting last week in the Times that agency staff members who raised concerns about these and other actions found themselves transferred or demoted.
- A former senior aide to Pruitt has detailed what he calls a long list of wasteful spending and unethical behavior on behalf of Pruitt to congressional investigators, according to a letter signed Thursday by Democrats in both houses of Congress.
Kevin Chmielewski, a former Trump campaign aide who until recently served as deputy chief of staff for operations to Pruitt, told congressional staffers that Pruitt routinely pushed for unjustified expenditures on his travel, lodging and changes to his office, and that he marginalized employees who questioned his directives, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
Chmielewski claims that Pruitt often chose travel destinations based on a desire to visit particular cities or countries rather than official business, according to the letter. He also said Pruitt routinely asked his staff to “find reasons” for the administrator to travel to Oklahoma, so that he could then remain in his home state for long weekends, often at taxpayer expense.
Chmielewski also claimed that Pruitt “frequently stayed in hotels that exceeded the allowable U.S. government per diem,” and that while planning trips to Italy and Australia — the latter trip was canceled — Pruitt refused to stay at hotels recommended by the U.S. Embassy, even though the hotels suggested by embassy officials “had law enforcement and other U.S. resources on site.”
Pruitt repeatedly opted to stay in Sofitel chain hotels both domestically and overseas, according to multiple aides, even when those costs exceeded the allowed government per diem.
Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, was excluded from scheduling meetings about the EPA leader’s travel after raising concerns about his expenditures, according to the letter.
Chmielewski also claims that the EPA administrator far exceeded the amount allowed on alterations to office, including refinishing a desk and purchasing another one and ordering a custom-built soundproof phone booth for $43,000.
- The Post also reported Thursday that Pruitt has used four separate agency email addresses since taking office, according to Senate Democrats and an EPA official, prompting concerns among agency lawyers that the EPA has not disclosed all the documents it would normally release to the public under federal records requests. Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sent a letter Tuesday to the EPA’s inspector general asking the office to probe the matter.
We’d like to see that matter investigated, too, as during the presidential campaign Mr. Trump routinely criticized alleged misuse of email by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Speaking of 2016: Administrator Pruitt would appear to be exactly the kind of person Trump campaigned on ridding Washington of.
Mr. President, it’s time for Pruitt to go.