White House Chief of Staff John Kelly urged President Donald Trump last week to dismiss Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, a White House official told The Wall Street Journal Friday.
Kelly reportedly recommended Pruitt’s ouster after a recent wave of negative publicity about Pruitt’s excessive spending and management style.
The White House official said, however, Trump is not prepared to fire him as the president is pleased with his deregulatory approach and his support of Trump’s agenda.
Trump tweeted Friday that Pruitt is doing “a great job,” but he also has said he would look into a number of controversies that have plagued Pruitt.
The White House said earlier this week that it had been reviewing reports Pruitt rented housing in Washington at below-market rates from the family of a lobbyist.
Pruitt also is being scrutinized over the large pay raises he reportedly gave to two EPA employees.
In addition, his security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes to protect him.
Altogether, the agency spent millions of dollars for a 20-member full-time security detail, three times the size of his predecessor's part-time contingent.
New details about Pruitt's decisions emerged from agency sources and documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
Shortly after arriving in Washington, Pruitt demoted the career staff member heading his security detail and replaced him with EPA Senior Special Agent Pasquale "Nino'' Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent who operates a private security company. An EPA official with direct knowledge of Pruitt's security spending said Perrotta oversaw an expansion of the EPA chief's security detail to accommodate guarding him day and night, even on family vacations.
The EPA official spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
Perrotta also signed off on new procedures that let Pruitt fly first-class on commercial airliners, with the security chief typically sitting next to him. Pruitt's premium status gave him and his security chief access to VIP airport lounges.
The EPA official said there are legitimate concerns about Pruitt's safety, given public opposition to his rollbacks of anti-pollution measures.
But Pruitt's ambitious domestic and international travel led to rapidly escalating costs, with the security detail racking up so much overtime that many hit annual salary caps of about $160,000. The demands of providing 24-hour coverage even meant taking some investigators away from field work, such as when Pruitt traveled to California for a family vacation.
The EPA official said total security costs — pay plus travel expenses — approached $3 million.
This story was written by VOA News. Some information came from the Associated Press.