Democrats say no threats to Pruitt, urge oversight hearing on EPA spending

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks at the White House in 2017

Frank Pallone, the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce, called Tuesday for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to step down, calling him "the poster child for the Trump administration's shameful culture of corruption".

The EPA has claimed that Pruitt requires the unprecedented security because of the volume of threats he's received since joining the administration - like people cursing at him in public.

Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee wrote in a letter Tuesday that they have reviewed security assessments describing 16 purported threats against Pruitt.

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"Documents provided to us by EPA official (s) suggest the agency has relied on questionable threats to the Administrator, including reports of non-violent protests, negative feedback about the administrators actions or other First Amendment protected activity to justify millions of dollars in additional security spending, inducing first-class air travel, as compared to his predecessors at the agency", Carper and Whitehouse wrote. EPA officials have said that various threats against Pruitt, including verbal public confrontations, led the head of his security detail to recommend that he fly in the front cabin of planes, both to provide a "buffer" from the public and also so that he could board and exit more quickly.

Former Gov. Chris Christie said he expected Pruitt to eventually resign, saying "I don't know how you survive" earlier this month on ABC's "This Week".

Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyo., said Tuesday he would not hold a hearing on the issue. That amount includes travel and overtime pay for Pruitt's round-the-clock detail of security officers.

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In addition, Gowdy said in his letter Wednesday that he plans to examine Pruitt's unusual lease agreement for a condo on Capitol Hill past year with Vicki Hart, a health-care lobbyist. The agency has also defended Pruitt's spending, including his first class flights, frequent trips home, and his below-market rate rental of a Capitol Hill condo from a lobbyist.

In a letter released Monday, David Apol, acting director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, took the unusual step of telling EPA officials that several recent ethics questions deserve further scrutiny.

EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins is conducting at least five investigative audits related to Pruitt, including a probe into questionable spending by his swollen security detail.

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The embattled EPA chief wanted the agency's "challenge coin", a commemorative medal used as a sign of one's allegiance, to increase in size, bear his name in large letters around the rim and do away with the EPA logo featured on the current design, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. Spokesman Jahan Wilcox declined to provide details about what specific action was taken against Carballo, the deputy associate administrator of EPA's Office of Homeland Security.

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