Washington (CNN)Scott Pruitt's unprecedented 24/7 security detail began at his own request and on his first day as Environmental Protection Agency administrator, according to a letter from the agency's inspector general, contradicting his claim the around-the-clock protection was a response to an assessment of death threats against him.
Pruitt asked for 24/7 security immediately, contradicting previous claims
Pruitt "requested 24/7 protection once he was confirmed as Administrator," EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins wrote in a letter on Monday.
Pruitt and EPA have defended his security procedures -- including first-class airplane seats and a heavily beefed-up team of special agents costing at least $2 million last year -- as necessary because of the threat review.
"These are threats that the IG has documented," Pruitt told lawmakers at a hearing last month, after reading from a document. "We can provide this to you."
"According to EPA's assistant inspector general, Scott Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him and his family," the agency said in a statement last month. "Americans should all agree that members of the President's Cabinet should be kept safe from these violent threats."
After the IG's letter was released on Monday, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox acknowledged "this particular decision was made before Administrator Pruitt arrived at EPA."
Pruitt took office in February 2017, and the inspector general's report on threats was made in August, the letter says. That threat summary "is the first and only one ever produced" by the inspector general.
The Monday letter was sent to Democratic Sens. Tom Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse, who have questioned the need for the spending and recently said they obtained evidence that the nature of the threats has been overstated. EPA has cited "First Amendment-protected activity," such as non-violent protests, "to justify millions of dollars in additional security spending, including first-class air travel, as compared to his predecessors at the agency," they wrote.
The letter also revealed the assistant inspector general overseeing investigations, Patrick Sullivan, recently recused himself from leading probes involving Pruitt's security chief, Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta.
The recusal comes after The New York Times raised questions about the impartiality of the Inspector General's investigations when it noted the two men, who are former colleagues at the Secret Service, "have been spotted drinking beers together at Elephant and Castle, a bar across the street from the E.P.A. headquarters."