Yesterday was not a good day for embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. We've known for a while that the Oklahoma Republican spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on a soundproof phone booth for reasons that have never made any sense, but we learned yesterday that as far as the Government Accountability Office is concerned, the purchase violated federal spending laws.
But that doesn't mean things can't get worse for the far-right EPA chief. Take this new Washington Post report, for example.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt upgraded his official car last year to a costlier, larger vehicle with bullet-resistant covers over bucket seats, according to federal records and interviews with current and former agency officials.Recent EPA administrators have traveled in a Chevrolet Tahoe, and agency officials had arranged for Pruitt to use the same vehicle when he joined the administration in February. But he switched to a larger, newer and more high-end Chevy Suburban last June.
The article added that the head of Pruitt's security detail "subsequently approved the addition of Kevlar-like seat covers to the vehicle at a cost of hundreds of dollars."
That's the same security official, Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, who's reportedly "clashed -- at least once physically -- with top E.P.A. officials who challenged Mr. Pruitt's spending, and has steered at least one E.P.A. security contract to a business associate."
This is what's become of the Environmental Protection Agency in the Donald Trump era.
For what it's worth, it would be easier to justify "bullet-resistant covers" for Scott Pruitt's seats if there were evidence of expansive security threats against the EPA chief, but there aren't. The latest documents from the agency show those security threats don't really exist. (The career EPA staffer who approved this evidence was removed from his post.)
And, of course, Pruitt's "Kevlar-like seat covers" are also emblematic of Pruitt's paranoia. As we discussed just yesterday, for example, the EPA chief also explored the possibility of getting a bullet-proof desk.
This fit into an amazing pattern. Pruitt, for example, has a massive, around-the-clock security detail. He’s spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on a professional sweep of his office searching for possible surveillance devices. And thousand more on a sound-proof phone booth. And thousands more on first-class air travel, apparently afraid of the riff raff who fly coach.
CNN reported that the EPA’s custodial staff is not allowed to enter Pruitt’s office on their own, and in the hallway around Pruitt’s office, “security employees check government IDs against a list of employees who are approved for access.”
And before you think Trump keeps this guy around because he's ruthlessly effective at gutting environmental safeguards, let's also not forget that reports on Pruitt's competence have been greatly exaggerated.