First-class passengers traveling to or from Israel this week, rest easy: Scott Pruitt won’t be your seatmate. The Environmental Protection Agency administrator has postponed a planned trip to Israel after the Washington Post drew attention to his predilection for taxpayer-funded first-class travel, which Pruitt has justified by citing security concerns.
Pruitt was scheduled for an almost weeklong trip to Israel on official business. While there, he planned to stay in a five-star hotel in Jerusalem, visit a water recycling plant, and meet with his Israeli counterpart, Ze’ev Elkin. EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman did not explain the rationale behind the postponed trip to the Post; this is the second time the trip, originally scheduled for January, has been delayed.
By now Pruitt ought to be accustomed to the criticism of his flight habits, which the EPA inspector general’s office began investigating last August. While the inquiry initially centered on the former Oklahoma attorney general’s many visits to his home state, it expanded in October to include Pruitt’s use of military and private flights. On Feb. 11, the Washington Post reported that, based on the results of a FOIA request by the Environmental Integrity Project, Pruitt and his aides (not including his special round-the-clock security detail) spent at least $90,000 on taxpayer-funded travel in early June 2017 alone. After this news broke, Pruitt was spotted flying first class for the brief trip from D.C. to Boston.
Pruitt defended his travel expenses, telling the New Hampshire Union Leader, “I’m not involved in any of those decisions” as they fall to his security team. According to the EPA’s assistant inspector general for investigations, Pruitt has received more threats than previous EPA administrators. But Henry Barnet, director of the EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement, didn’t point to these threats when he explained Pruitt’s luxurious flights to Politico. Instead, he mentioned airport-goers “who were approaching him and being extremely rude, using profanities and potential for altercations.” Barnet said one person told Pruitt he was “f—ing up the environment.” Pruitt may not be particularly interested in protecting environmental regulations, but he is interested in protecting himself from the f-bomb.