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EPA spent millions on 20-member security detail for Pruitt, records show

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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, at a press briefing Friday, praised Pruitt but said the administration was “continuing to review any of the concerns that we have.”

“No one other than the president has the authority to hire and fire members of his Cabinet. It’s a decision that he’ll make, and right now I don’t have any personnel announcements,” she added.

In recent weeks, Pruitt has been the subject of multiple negative reports that have raised ethics concerns about his frequent first-class travel, his sweetheart deal to rent a condo from the wife of an energy lobbyist, and big pay raises reportedly afforded to top aides without White House approval.

Shortly after arriving in Washington, Pruitt demoted the career staff member heading his security detail and replaced him with EPA Senior Special Agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent who operates a private security company. An EPA official with direct knowledge of Pruitt’s security spending says Perrotta oversaw a rapid expansion of the EPA chief’s security detail to accommodate guarding him day and night, even on family vacations and when Pruitt was home in Oklahoma.

The EPA official spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The EPA official said there are legitimate concerns about Pruitt’s safety, given public opposition to his rollbacks of anti-pollution measures.

But Pruitt’s ambitious domestic and international travel led to rapidly escalating costs, with the security detail racking up so much overtime that many investigators 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.

The EPA official said total security costs approached $3 million when pay is added to travel expenses.

More allegations emerged Thursday, when CBS News reported that Pruitt, just weeks after he was confirmed to the post, wanted to use his vehicle’s sirens and lights to get through Washington traffic. When his lead security agent refused the request, explaining that he couldn’t use them unless there was an emergency, the EPA reassigned him, CBS News reported.

The New York Times also reported Thursday that several EPA officials, some of them senior, had been sidelined after questioning Pruitt.

Pruitt has faced continued fallout over reports that for the first six months he was in Washington, he leased a Capitol Hill condo tied to a lobbyist that did business with the EPA and paid just $50 a night, only for the nights he stayed there. The news was first reported by ABC News, which also reported that the townhouse is co-owned by Vicki Hart, the health care lobbyist wife of J. Steven Hart, an energy lobbyist. By Friday, news had emerged that Pruitt was supposed to live in the Harts’ condo for only six weeks and that, according to Politico, the Harts pushed him out and changed their locks. Politico reported a day earlier that Pruitt had also fallen behind on his cut-rate rent payments.

And in February, Pruitt drew criticism after it was revealed he and his aides spent more than $90,000 for trips in early June and $15,000 to fly home during the weekends to Oklahoma between March and May of 2017. Pruitt traveled mostly first class, despite federal regulations requiring federal officials to fly in coach. Two month earlier, in December, Pruitt and members of his staff spent roughly $40,000 in taxpayer funds to fly to Morocco to help encourage the country to import liquefied natural gas from the United States.

In addition, The Atlantic reported that Pruitt had bypassed the White House to give two top aides, Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp, substantial pay raises.

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Sturgeon warned UK debt hampers ANY independence bid as 'economies are meshed together'

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NICOLA STURGEON has been warned Scotland would suffer economically if the nation were to become independent due to its close ties to the UK.

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Biden to detail Lyft, Uber plan to provide free rides to vaccination sites

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is backing an effort by Lyft and Uber to help provide free rides for people traveling to get a Covid-19 vaccine as the administration ramps up efforts to motivate those who been hesitant to get the shot.

The ride sharing companies will begin promoting the locations of vaccination centers in their apps and provide instructions for how to redeem a free ride, the White House said today in a statement. While the companies have already provided free and discounted rides to some users, the new promotion will apply to anyone seeking a vaccine and begin in the next two weeks and last through July 4.

The move is part of an effort by the administration to make getting a vaccine as simple and convenient as possible in hopes it will encourage more Americans to get the shot. Demand for the vaccine has been slowing, with 59 percent of the population having already received at least one dose. Biden has set the goal of having 70 percent adults with at least their first dose by July 4.

Biden will hold a meeting with a bipartisan group of governors Tuesday to talk about creative ways their states have tried to reach the unvaccinated. The federal government has been shifting away from a model focused on mass vaccination centers and to more targeted distribution utilizing retail pharmacies, doctor’s offices and mobile vaccination units.

At the meeting Biden will also announce a program for community colleges to set up vaccination sites for students, staff and the general public through June. There will also be additional funding available for states to conduct phone banks, door-to-door canvassing, and pop-up vaccination sites in workplaces and churches.

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Keir Starmer dealt fresh blow as closest aide quits amid Angela Rayner 'briefing war'

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SIR KEIR STARMER is facing a party crisis after his closet aide, Carolyn Harris, quit amid accusations she was spreading rumours about Angela Rayner’s private life.

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