Death Threats to EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Raise Security Questions

Scott Pruitt
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Death threats, harassment, and security concerns continue to raise questions about security for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt’s travel.

Politico, Vox, and the Washington Post have published reports this week detailing that EPA chief Scott Pruitt has traveled first class or business class for security purposes. Vox wrote an article detailing how the nature of Pruitt’s security concerns amounted to “unpleasant travelers.” However, Pruitt has faced several death threats and other security concerns during his tenure as the head of the EPA.

Pruitt told the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday, “I’m not involved in any of those decisions. Those are all made by the [security] detail, the security assessment in addition to the chief of staff.”

In October 2017, security officials increased Pruitt’s security detail to a potential annual cost of $1.9 million because of “unprecedented threats.”

Pruitt told Bloomberg News in an interview, “The quantity and the volume — as well as the type — of threats are different. What’s really disappointing to me as [sic] it’s not just me — it’s family.”

In November 2017, Patrick Sullivan, the EPA’s assistant inspector general for investigation, told CNN that Pruitt has four to five times the amount of death threats as former EPA chief Gina McCarthy:

We have at least four times — four to five times the number of threats against Mr. Pruitt than we had against Ms. [Gina] McCarthy,’ said Patrick Sullivan, EPA’s assistant inspector general for investigations, referring to Pruitt’s predecessor during the Obama administration. He declined to provide the specific numbers of threats against Pruitt. ‘They run the variety of direct death threats — ‘I’m going to put a bullet in your brain’ — to implied threats — ‘if you don’t classify this particular chemical in this particular way, I’m going to hurt you,’’ Sullivan told CNN in an interview. ‘Then there’s implied threats — like they say in New York, with the mafia: ‘If you come after me and my family, I’ll come after you and your family.’

In one case, an individual started tweeting death threats to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Pruitt, which was spurred by drinking and watching The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

Administrator Pruitt does not serve as the only executive agency branch leader to face death threats; Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai faced serious death threats during the last year for the agency’s decision to repeal its 2015 net neutrality order. In November 2017, the Washington Post reported on signs that were posted near Pai’s house, which read, “They will come to know the truth. Dad murdered Democracy in cold blood.”

Pai also had to cancel his appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January due to death threats.

In a later interview with E&E News in January 2018, Sullivan said his office opened up approximately 70 threat probes in 2017, which surpasses the 45 launches against the EPA in 2016.

“He has had significantly more threats directed against him. There’s absolutely no question about it,” Sullivan told E&E News.


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