Email challenges Pruitt’s account of motorcades
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers at a Senate hearing Wednesday hammered EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt with their toughest questioning to date amid federal investigations on his spending, bodyguards and ties with a lobbyist. The exchanges involved a newly released internal email that appeared to contradict Pruitt.
Appearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Pruitt redirected responsibility for alleged ethical missteps that have prompted about a dozen investigations, including ones by Congress, the EPA’s inspector general, the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Management and Budget.
He stuck to his practice in previous hearings of shifting blame to subordinates at the EPA, including its security agents and public affairs workers.
Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, the panel’s top Democrat and a former state attorney general like Pruitt, led Democrats’ questioning. Udall asked Pruitt about news reports that the agency head liked his motorcade to switch on lights and sirens to cut through traffic. “I don’t recall that happening,” Pruitt said, when asked repeatedly by Udall if he had ordered lights and sirens. “There are policies that agencies follow. The agency has followed the policy to the best of my knowledge. No, I don’t recall.”
Udall then disclosed an internal email indicating that Pruitt did know.
The email, written by then-EPA special agent Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta just days after Pruitt’s confirmation in February 2017, has the subject line “Lights and Sirens.” It added “Btw — Administrator encourages the use.”
Pruitt later promoted Perrotta to lead his round-the-clock personal protective detail. Former EPA officials have told The Associated Press that Pruitt made the change after Perrotta’s predecessor refused to use lights and sirens in non-emergencies.