EPA says 'unprecedented' number of death threats against Pruitt

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has faced an "unprecedented" number of death threats, according to an agency spokesman.

His statement follows reports Pruitt has spent millions on security despite no proof his life was in danger.

“According to EPA’s Assistant Inspector General, Scott Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him and his family,” agency spokesman Jahan Wilcox said late Friday. “Americans should all agree that members of the president’s Cabinet should be kept safe from these violent threats.”

The statement was obtained Saturday by Fox News and included a list of several published reports about such incidents.

President Trump tweeted his support for Pruitt on Saturday evening. “While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA. Record clean Air & Water while saving USA Billions of Dollars. Rent was about market rate, travel expenses OK. Scott is doing a great job!”

A nationwide search of state and federal court records by the Associated Press found no case in which anyone was arrested or charged with threatening Pruitt, the wire service said Friday.

The agency has spent millions of dollars for a 20-member, full-time detail for Pruitt, which is roughly three times the size of his predecessor's part-time security contingent.

New details in Pruitt's expansive spending for security and travel emerged from agency sources and documents reviewed by the wire service. They come as Pruitt fends off allegations of profligate spending and ethical missteps.

Pruitt's domestic and international travel led to rapidly escalating costs, with the security detail racking up so much overtime that many hit annual salary caps of about $160,000. The demands of providing 24-hour coverage even meant taking some investigators away from field work, such as when Pruitt traveled to California for a family vacation.

Total security costs reportedly are nearly $3 million when pay is added to travel expenses.

Pruitt has said his use of first-class airfare was initiated following unpleasant interactions with other travelers. In one incident, someone yelled a profanity as he walked through the airport.

The EPA administrator also has come under intense scrutiny for big raises for two of closest aides and his rental of a Capitol Hill condo tied to a lobbyist who represents fossil fuel clients.

“This was like an Airbnb situation,” Pruitt told Fox News on Wednesday, in an exclusive interview in which he defended his actions amid allegations of questionable spending. “When I was not there, the landlord, they had access to the entirety of the facility. When I was there, I only had access to a room.”

At least three congressional Republicans and a chorus of Democrats have called for Pruitt's ouster. But Trump is so far standing by him.

A review of Pruitt's ethical conduct by White House officials is underway, adding to probes by congressional oversight committees and the EPA's inspector general.

Pruitt, 49, was closely aligned with the oil and gas industry as Oklahoma's state attorney general before being tapped by Trump, who has praised Pruitt's relentless efforts to scrap, delay or rewrite Obama-era environmental regulations.

Pruitt also has championed budget cuts and staff reductions at the agency so deep that even Republican budget hawks in Congress won’t implement them.

EPA's press office has not disclosed the cost of Pruitt's security or the size of his protective detail, saying doing so could imperil his personal safety.

But other sources within EPA and documents released through public information requests help provide a window into the ballooning costs.

Pruitt's predecessor, Gina McCarthy, had a security detail that numbered about a half dozen, less than a third the size of Pruitt's. She flew coach and was not accompanied by security during her off hours.

The EPA spent nearly $9,000 last year on increased counter-surveillance precautions for Pruitt, including hiring a private contractor to sweep his office for hidden listening devices and installing sophisticated biometric locks for the doors. The payment for the bug sweep went to a vice president at Perrotta's security company.

The EPA official who spoke to AP said Perrotta also arranged the installation of a $43,000 soundproof phone booth for Pruitt's office.

At least five EPA officials were placed on leave, reassigned or demoted after pushing back against spending requests such as a $100,000-a-month private jet membership, a bulletproof vehicle and $70,000 for furniture such as a bulletproof desk for the armed security officer always stationed inside the administrator's office suite.

Those purchases were not approved.

Fox News' Mike Arroyo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.