One of the few scandals that actually seemed to embarrass the Trump administration last year was the plane problem: top officials kept taking very expensive, taxpayer-financed flights that the White House found difficult to defend.
The controversy cost HHS Secretary Tom Price his job, but he wasn’t the only one caught up in this mess. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s travel became a problem. The controversy surrounding Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s travel is starting to look worse. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s travel drew some scrutiny as did Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s. VA Secretary David Shulkin’s travel was under investigation, and the latest findings do not paint a flattering picture.
And then there’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who’s tenure has been controversial for a wide variety of reasons, and who now looks a little worse thanks to this Washington Post report.
Just days after helping orchestrate the United States’ exit from a global climate accord last June, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt embarked on a whirlwind tour aimed at championing President Trump’s agenda at home and abroad.
On Monday, June 5, accompanied by his personal security detail, Pruitt settled into his $1,641.43 first-class seat for a short flight from the District to New York City. His ticket cost more than six times that of the two media aides who came along and sat in coach, according to agency travel vouchers; the records do not show whether his security detail accompanied him at the front of the plane.
In Manhattan, Pruitt made two brief television appearances praising the White House’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate agreement, stayed with staff at an upscale hotel near Times Square and returned to Washington the next day.
That same week, Pruitt flew on Air Force One to attend an infrastructure event, before taking a military jet to New York, where the EPA chief and his team boarded another flight to Rome.
All of this has cost American taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars – and that doesn’t include the undisclosed costs associated with covering the travel expenses of Pruitt’s security – which is extensive.
Indeed, the closer one looks at this story, the worse it appears.
For example, Pruitt could fly coach – as his predecessors did – but the Oklahoma Republican chooses not to. The Post’s reporting added, “The agency records show that wherever Pruitt’s schedule takes him, he often flies first or business class, citing unspecified security concerns.”
As we’ve discussed before, Pruitt appears to approach his work with a great deal of anxiety – the EPA administrator has an around-the-clock security detail, which apparently includes 30 guards who work in shifts – and we now know that affects his approach to travel.
What’s more, Pruitt’s many trips are kept secret from the public. An EPA spokesperson said the agency doesn’t release Pruitt’s schedule in advance “due to security concerns” and because it could be a “distraction” from the trips.
Maybe this guy isn’t cut out for a career in a cabinet-level post?