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draining the swamp

EPA spending $25,000 to build a secure phone booth for Scott Pruitt

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt doesn't like to release his appointment calendar, and to ensure that his phone conversations remain private as well, the EPA is spending close to $25,000 to install a soundproof communications booth in his office.

This type of booth is typically used to conduct hearing tests, but the EPA wanted "a secure phone booth that couldn't be breached from a data point of view or from someone standing outside eavesdropping," Steve Snider, an acoustic sales consultant with the company building the booth, told The Washington Post. An EPA spokeswoman told the Post that the booth, called a "Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility," is something most, if not all, Cabinet offices have. Former EPA employees said the agency has always had a SCIF, on a floor away from Pruitt's office.

Under Pruitt, the EPA is becoming a more secretive place — some employees have been asked to hand over their cellphones before meetings, and Pruitt rarely uses email, instead giving directives to people in person and during meetings, the Post reports. His emails have been scrutinized before — messages from his time as Oklahoma's attorney general show he worked closely with oil and gas companies to fight against the Obama administration's environmental protections.

Additionally, Pruitt has not followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, who posted their appointment calendars; it wasn't until last week that details from months of meetings were released, due to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by several media outlets. The calendars show that Pruitt has been meeting with car, mining, and fossil fuel company executives, oftentimes just before making decisions in favor of those industries, the Post says. Pruitt has also tripled the number of people to his security detail, and now special agents that would otherwise be investigating environmental crimes are instead protecting Pruitt. You can read more about Pruitt's EPA impact at The Washington Post.