U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is getting ready to join passengers in coach after receiving bipartisan criticism for flying first-class around the globe on the taxpayers’ tab.
“There’s a change coming,” Pruitt told CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett in an interview. Pruitt said he had told his security detail that “you’re going to accommodate the security threats as they exist; you’re going to accommodate those in all ways — alternate ways — up to and including flying coach, and that is what’s going to happen on my very next flight.”
Pruitt’s comments, included in CBS News’ “The Takeout” podcast published Wednesday, come amid intense and mounting scrutiny of the EPA chief’s travel. The EPA inspector general is already evaluating the appropriateness of Pruitt’s trips, and both Democratic and Republican lawmakers asked the agency for more details after records revealed Pruitt relies heavily on first-class travel.
Representatives of the EPA did not immediately respond to emailed requests seeking more information.
Pruitt’s pricey travel included a $1,641.43 trip from Washington, D.C. to New York City last June and a round-trip ticket to Italy last summer that cost taxpayers $7,003.52.
EPA officials have said Pruitt’s use of first- and business-class service is appropriate to ensure his protection amid unprecedented threats and “vulgar” encounters. Pruitt has distanced himself from the specific travel arrangements, asserting that he is following the counsel of EPA security staff.
“The threats have been unprecedented from the very beginning,” Pruitt told Garrett. “The quantity and type are unprecedented. I have a responsibility to listen to those individuals who are charged with the obligation to keep me safe and keep employees at the agency safe. And I listen to them.”
Pruitt declined to detail specific threats, but he cited “incidents in airports” and other encounters.
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