President Donald Trump cites “death threats” to justify the $3 million round-the-clock security detail for Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, who cites his own security to justify lavish spending on first-class air travel.
But details about any threats to Pruitt are sparse. One supposed threat that was investigated was a postcard to Pruitt with the message: “You ignorant fuck,” according to EPA records. Authorities also investigated two protesters who interrupted a speech by Pruitt.
The EPA said there were “zero records” about death threats in reply to BuzzFeed investigative reporter Jason Leopold’s request for all information.
The Washington Post sought records under the Freedom of Information Act late last year, asking for “copies of all emails, letters, voicemails and other communication in which Administrator Pruitt was threatened with violence or which were otherwise considered to be threatening to the administrator.” The EPA’s answer, dated early December, was “undetermined,” with “no records released.”
The Associated Press reported last week that its “nationwide search of federal and state court records … found no case where anyone has been arrested or charged with threatening Pruitt.” The EPA did not respond to AP’s request Friday to provide details of “any specific threats or arrests.”
The EPA official in charge of investigating threats ― assistant inspector general for investigations Patrick Sullivan ― would not specify the number of threats that had been logged against Pruitt. But he said in a September interview with E&E News that there were more investigations into threats against Pruitt than for either of his two immediate predecessors.
Officials launched an investigation after a postcard was sent to Pruitt saying: “You are evil incarnite.”
Sullivan told CNN in November there were “four to five times” more threats against Pruitt than his immediate predecessor, but refused to elaborate.
The EPA requested that Pruitt’s security detail be beefed up soon after he took office. Some $3 million has now been spent on Pruitt’s 20-man round-the-clock protection. In addition, Pruitt’s aides often cite security to justify huge first-class airfare expenses.
The spending is part of a long series of ethical problems plaguing the EPA chief.
Here are some alleged threats against Pruitt that were investigated, according to reports:
― The EPA inspector general in March 2017 investigated a postcard sent to the EPA that said: “Get out while you still can, Scott,” “You ignorant fuck,” and “You are evil incarnite,” according to a report obtained by E&E. EPA investigators discussed the message with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. But they couldn’t identify the author and concluded the message “lacked a clear threat.”
― Another postcard included “an implied threat that contained obscene language,” Sullivan told E&E. “It was not a direct threat.” The U.S. attorney’s office declined to prosecute, and the writer of the message apologized when contacted by federal officials, said Sullivan.
― “Threatening tweets” against Pruitt and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were investigated in April 2017. The writer told investigators he wrote the “flippant comments” while drinking and watching “The Rachel Maddow Show,” and had no intention of hurting anyone. He apologized, and a U.S. attorney’s office declined to press charges.
― The EPA launched a criminal probe in April 2017 into two female protesters who interrupted a speech by Pruitt. Officials submitted information for misdemeanor charges, but no action was taken.
― The head of the EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement told Politico in February that Pruitt’s safety was threatened when people yelled obscenities at him.
Sullivan said investigations had been launched into 40 threats against EPA “personnel and facilities” in 2017, according to E&E. He told NBC a month later the number was 70 investigations.
Three investigations were launched into threats against Pruitt’s predecessor, Gina McCarthy, but none against President Barack Obama’s first EPA chief, Lisa Jackson, according to records. One letter to McCarthy threatened: “We will hurt you and your family.” Sullivan used a version of the same quote as an example of a threat to Pruitt in his interview with CNN.
Fox News reported Friday that Pruitt has received an “unprecedented” number of death threats.
“According to EPA’s assistant inspector general, Scott Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him and his family,” Fox quoted EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox as saying. Wilcox’s statement “included a list of several published reports about such incidents,” Fox reported, without providing details.
Neither Wilcox nor other EPA representatives immediately responded to HuffPost’s requests for threat details.