Trump doubles down on defence of embattled EPA chief Scott Pruitt


Scott Pruitt, the chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, can now add another issue to his ongoing avalanche of scandals.

Pruitt was accompanied by nine aides and a security detail during a trip to Italy in June that cost more than $120,000.

"While Security spending was somewhat more than his predecessor, Scott Pruitt has received death threats because of his bold actions at EPA", Trump said.

Pruitt has been under the spotlight in recent weeks for decisions executed during his tenure that have raised ethics questions.

Trump is of course referring to three separate scandals which have embroiled Pruitt: his unprecedented security force and its extraordinary cost; the cheap condo he rented in Washington, D.C. from a lobbyist with business before the EPA, and his high travel expenses. On Friday, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox announced that according to the EPA's Assistant Inspector General, "Scott Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him and his family".

Pruitt has been among the most controversial EPA secretaries in history, accused by critics of moves that will devastate America's air and water after slashing a series of regulations created to protect the environment, but praised by some conservatives for his de-regulatory zeal.

That increase in spending came as the Trump administration shared plans for cutting the EPA's budget by about 30%, including major cuts to the agency's enforcement work and staffing and the elimination of some programs.

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White House Chief of Staff John Kelly also told President Donald Trump last week that he was "convinced" that Pruitt needs to step down, a White House official told the Wall Street Journal.

He has also been criticized for high security costs - and expensive travel as well -after it was revealed he has been using 24-hour security details staffed by up to 19 people.

Pruitt's predecessor, Gina McCarthy, had a security detail that numbered about a half dozen, less than a third the size of Pruitt's.

His security was then expanded to give him protection even when he was on vacation, making trips to Disneyland or at home in Oklahoma.

The provision allows Pruitt to hire employees without gaining approval from the White House or Congress. He visited the U.S. Embassy in Rome and took a private tour of the Vatican before briefly attending a meeting of G-7 environmental ministers in Bologna. The payment for the bug sweep went to a vice president at Perrotta's security company.

Pruitt is also under fire for frequent first-class air travel and for purchasing costly items for his office, including a soundproof telephone booth. But Pruitt got an ornate refurbished desk comparable in grandeur to the one in the Oval Office.

The prior head of Pruitt's security detail, Eric Weese, was demoted previous year after he refused Pruitt's demand to use the lights and sirens on his government-owned SUV to get him through Washington traffic to the airport and dinner reservations.