Speed Reads

the high life

The EPA's new story on Scott Pruitt's first-class travel is that fellow passengers yelled 'profanities' at him

Scott Pruitt isn't the first EPA chief to be accosted in public, but he's apparently the first given carte blanche to fly first class because people yelled mean things at him. In the latest evolution of the EPA's response to a Sunday Washington Post report detailing Pruitt's luxury travel arrangements, Henry Barnet, director of the EPA's Office of Criminal Enforcement, detailed some of the abuse heaped on the EPA administrator.

"He was approached in the airport numerous times, to the point of profanities being yelled at him," Barnet told Politico on Thursday. By last May, EPA security decided he should fly "business or first class, away from close proximity from those individuals who were approaching him and being extremely rude, using profanities and potential for altercations and so forth." In the Atlanta airport in October, Barnett said, a person approached Pruitt — who, unlike his predecessors, has 24/7 armed security — and yelled, "'Scott Pruitt, you're f---ing up the environment,' those sort of terms."

On Tuesday, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said such security concerns led the EPA to give Pruitt a "blanket waiver" to travel first class, but when Politico pointed out that federal rules prohibit blanket waivers, Wilcox said Wednesday that "for every trip Administrator Pruitt submits a waiver to fly in either first or business class." The EPA won't say who approves the waivers. Pruitt's first-class travel doesn't come cheap — in one June weekend, taxpayers spent $90,000 on his travel. The EPA said Wednesday it will no longer give out information on Pruitt's travels without Freedom of Information Act compulsion.

Every air passenger has been through TSA security screening, and Barnet said Pruitt travels with an armed agent (who likely also flies first class), so maybe the EPA could explore cheaper ways to safeguard Pruitt's feelings from some of the people paying for his flight. Or, he could cut down on travel and just video-conference from inside his spy-proof phone booth.