cabinet travel mnuchin
Trump's Cabinet faces travel scrutiny
02:26 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

Scott Pruitt’s flights in first class or via military jets are for security purposes, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator told The New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday.

Pruitt said he flew first class from Washington to Boston for his New Hampshire trip Tuesday.

“We live in a very toxic environment politically, particularly around issues of the environment,” Pruitt told the newspaper. “We’ve reached the point where there’s not much civility in the marketplace and it’s created, you know, it’s created some issues and the (security) detail, the level of protection is determined by the level of threat.”

The Washington Post analyzed records and reported Monday that Pruitt’s use of taxpayer funds on first-class flights and luxury hotels exceeded his predecessors.

“Unfortunately … we’ve had some incidents on travel dating back to when I first started serving in the March-April timeframe,” Pruitt told The Union Leader.

Flights under scrutiny

According to the Post, Pruitt traveled to Rome, and included a ride from a White House event in Cincinnati to New York in a military jet, totaling at least $90,000.

Last October, according to a memo previously reported on by CNN, the EPA’s inspector general had “plans to expand the scope” of its inquiry into Pruitt’s travels.

In a January memo, the Office of the Inspector General said it had expanded the probe to include his travel through December 31, 2017.

The EPA often cited unspecified security concerns for flying first class, records obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project and The Washington Post via the Freedom of Information Act showed.

In his interview with the Union Leader, Pruitt said he was “not involved” in the decisions regarding his security and travel.

“Those are all made by the (security) detail, the security assessment in addition to the chief of staff,” Pruitt said during his interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was scrutinized for his use of private jets on multiple government business trips. He eventually resigned after the department’s inspector general opened an investigation looking into the matter.

CNN’s Maegan Vazquez, Rene Marsh and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.