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Trump defends Pruitt, suggests ‘death threats’ justify spending

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The Associated Press reported Friday that the Environmental Protection Agency spent millions of dollars for a 20-member full-time security detail that is three times the size of his predecessor’s part-time security contingent.

Pruitt and an EPA spokesperson has claimed that he needed the security and to fly first class because of threats and unpleasant interactions with other travelers. Trump in Saturday’s tweet echoes that justification.

An EPA official the Associated Press said has direct knowledge of Pruitt’s security spending told the news agency that total security costs approached $3 million when pay is added to travel expenses.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the AP late Friday that Pruitt has faced an “unprecedented” amount of death threats against him and his family. “Americans should all agree that members of the President’s cabinet should be kept safe from these violent threats,” Wilcox said.

An EPA lawyer said this week he wasn’t given all the facts when he ruled there were no ethics violation in Pruitt’s lease of the condo. In a letter dated Wednesday, EPA ethics lawyer Kevin Minoli said on opinion that Pruitt was paying fair-market value was based on the assumption that Pruitt occupied only one bedroom for $50 a night, as outlined in the lease.

Media reports later disclosed that Pruitt’s college-aged daughter occupied a second bedroom while she interned at the White House last summer. Minoli said he did not consider the value of a second room in his analysis. Pruitt paid about $1,000 a month, less than a third of what other nearby two-bedroom homes list for.

Trump has previously defended Pruitt amid the reports of spending. The president said on Twitter Friday that Pruitt “is doing a great job but is TOTALLY under siege?”

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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.” This week when Sanders was when asked if the president was OK with Pruitt’s actions and replied: “The president’s not.”

As the head of the EPA, Pruitt is Trump’s point man for the administration’s plan to roll back environmental regulations — many of which were put in place by the Obama administration and opposed by industry lobbyists — while boosting the continued burning of fossil fuels, which scientists have concluded is the primary cause of climate change.



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