Trump EPA chief urged officers to speed up and sound sirens
Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt urged his safety officers to drive recklessly and turn on emergency lights and sirens to bypass traffic in the nation’s capital.
Interviews with agents who served in Pruitt’s security details describe President Donald Trump’s first EPA chief as usually late for meetings and feeling empowered to use his motorcade to zoom around other cars , according to a recently released statement. report.
The report — written by an officer with the EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics and Training, which oversees the administrator’s security details, about a month before Pruitt resigned from the agency in 2018 — documents the frequent use of lights and sirens by Pruitt’s motorcade, prompted by the then administrator himself.
“Can you use that magic button to get us through traffic?” Pruitt asked, an agent called back.
Security service officers were not comfortable with this practice, believing that such measures should only be taken in an emergency.
“Just because the administrator shows up late for an appointment doesn’t mean we have to arbitrarily turn on the lights and sirens to get him to his next appointment on time, to catch up,” a said an agent. This agent also said it was awkward when Pruitt said “speed it up” and “we need to get there faster.”
The agent told the other serving on the detail to unplug the lights and sirens so that when Pruitt asks to use them, he would be told they weren’t working.
In an episode described in the report, Pruitt was 35 minutes late to a staff meeting, but ordered he be taken for his dry cleaning, using lights and sirens and driving against oncoming traffic reverse. The agent said they thought it was “reckless”, but Pruitt’s urgency was “palpable” and they could not refuse the order.
In another instance, an officer refused Pruitt’s order to use lights and sirens, which left Pruitt “visibly upset” and “quiet for an uncomfortable moment in the car.” A few days later, that officer was removed from his post, sending “a clear message” to the rest of security that “if you don’t run the admin bids, you will lose your job.”
The report found that lights and sirens were used at Pruitt’s direction by officers who were uncomfortable disobeying the EPA chief.
“Their use was not made in emergency situations, but to facilitate movement, such as turning in oncoming traffic, using excessive speed to speed up a journey or navigating through other motorists,” the report said.
He added that with increased media scrutiny, the use of lights and sirens by Pruitt’s motorcade has been reduced.
Pruitt’s penchant for having his security sound the sirens to beat the Washington gridlock was widely reported in the press and referenced by lawmakers while he was in office. He was even asked about it during a hearing in May 2018.
“There have been reports that you encouraged the use of lights and sirens on your motorcade, even though there was no emergency,” the senator said at the time. Tom Udall (DN.M.) said. “Is it true?”
“I don’t remember that ever happening,” Pruitt said. “There are the policies that the agency follows, the agents follow. And to my knowledge, they followed him anyway.
Udall also noted during the hearing a news article saying that after one of Pruitt’s agents protested the practice, that agent was removed from his position. Additionally, the senator submitted an email for the record that another security guard said Pruitt was encouraging the use of lights and sirens in transit.
Pruitt did not respond to messages from E&E News seeking comment on this story.
“It’s the New York Times that’s suing me again,” said Pruitt, who is currently running for the Senate, in a Tweeter earlier today. “This is clearly a politically motivated attack by the Times and its swampy allies. The left doesn’t want me back in Washington because they know I will reverse their terrible policies.
The New York Times first reported on the findings of the EPA’s Criminal Law Enforcement Office.
The EPA report was released with a special counsel office letter addressed to President Joe Biden. The letter, dated yesterday, detailed whistleblowers’ allegations of Pruitt’s mismanagement and overspending on security and travel while serving as an EPA administrator.
Kevin Chmielewski identified himself to E&E News as one of those whistleblowers described in the letter. He served as the EPA’s deputy chief of staff for operations during the Trump administration and helped raise the alarm about Pruitt’s behavior.
Chmielewski said the EPA did not recover any of the funds Pruitt spent or hold anyone accountable for the former administrator’s actions. He lamented what it said to future whistleblowers who were considering raising their concerns.
“Great, everything I said is true but nothing has been done about it,” Chmielewski said. “It was kind of a kick in the teeth.”
He was unable to find another job in the federal government or on political campaigns, having worked on the forward team for Trump’s 2016 campaign. Instead, Chmielewski said he runs a small restaurant in his hometown of Berlin, Maryland.
The EPA inspector general conducted several reviews over Pruitt’s time at the agency.
A report found “excessive costs” of nearly $124,000 for Pruitt and his security service’s first and business class flights. The watchdog recommended that the EPA determine whether that money should be recovered, but the agency declined to do so.
Another report found that the EPA had spent more than $3.5 million on Pruitt’s safety details without justification for its 24/7 protection. That was double the cost for its predecessors at the EPA .
The EPA inspector general has failed in other cases. Investigations into Pruitt’s lease of a Capitol Hill condo tied to a lobbyist with business before the agency and his EPA aides performing personal duties for him, such as trying to secure his wife’s a Chick-fil-A franchise, were deemed ‘inconclusive’ after Pruitt quit, according to another report.
Pruitt, who was twice elected Oklahoma’s attorney general, is now running to succeed Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). His campaign also did not respond to questions for this story.
Pruitt relied on his troubled tenure at the EPA and the responses from the media and others as an asset in the race.
“I was a guy who got things done on some of the administration’s most transformative issues in the early years,” he told the “Hugh Hewitt Show” last month (Daily O&MMay 3).
Pruitt added, “It was just one aspect of changing the direction of an agency that was obviously a bastion of the American left, used as a tool and a weapon against all forms of producers in the United States.”
Pruitt will first have to win in the June 28 Republican primary. A survey last month, commissioned by two Oklahoma television stations, placed him in fourth place in this contest, with only 3.3% of the vote.
Journalist Timothy Cama contributed.