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Scott Pruitt’s “tactical pants” scandal, very briefly explained

The administrator’s office had spent nearly $3,000 on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.”

scott pruitt security
Are these pants tactical or not, Administrator Pruitt?
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Dylan Scott covers health care for Vox. He has reported on health policy for more than 10 years, writing for Governing magazine, Talking Points Memo and STAT before joining Vox in 2017.

The latest and greatest in the never-ending scandals of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt: “tactical pants.”

The Intercept reported on Wednesday evening that as part of the EPA’s eye-popping $4.6 million in taxpayer dollars spent on security, the administrator’s office had spent nearly $3,000 on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.”

The EPA later said in a statement Thursday that the tactical clothing was not used for Pruitt’s personal protection.

“These are routine expenditures for our Criminal Investigative Division (CID) and Protective Security Detail (PSD) agents to have proper attire for search warrants, arrests, disaster responses and training that go back multiple administrations. This attire is not used for protection work,” Henry Barnet, director of the Office of Criminal Enforcement, Forensics, and Training, said.

The agency is spending money on tactical clothing, body armor, bulletproof vehicles, and, for some reason, gear to break down locked doors. From the Intercept’s Lee Fang and Nick Surgey:

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act list expenditures totaling $288,610 on a range of security-related items. The EPA, according to three expense line items for April, spent a total of $2,749.62 on “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.”

Pruitt’s office spent $24,115 on a variety of tactical clothing and body armor in seven separate orders. All of the tactical gear was purchased in 2018, more than a year into Pruitt’s tenure as EPA chief. The agency spent a staggering $88,603 on radios and accessories, including holsters and travel chargers.

According to the expense records, Pruitt’s office also spent $150,900 on leasing vehicles. The list of expenditures does not break down how many vehicles were leased or any specific details about them, but the rate is considerably higher than past expenses along these lines. By contrast, when Pruitt received an upgraded Chevy Suburban with bullet-resistant seats, the one-year lease for that vehicle cost $10,200.

As the New York Times reported in late May, Pruitt is spending nearly twice as much money on security as EPA administrators who served under President Barack Obama.

“Administrator Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him,” Jahan Wilcox, an agency spokesperson, told the Times by way of explanation. “To provide transparency, E.P.A. will post the costs of his security detail and proactively release these numbers on a quarterly basis.”

But as Vox’s Umair Irfan has detailed, the questions about Pruitt’s spending and other ethical quandaries are much bigger than security — and have attracted the attention of federal and congressional investigators.

This is the man who was living for a time in a lobbyist’s house for $50 a night, who reportedly was eating too often at the White House mess hall, and who allegedly sent out aides to buy the choicest body lotion from Ritz-Carlton hotels. He also tried to buy a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel, and apparently tried to set his wife up with a Chick-fil-A franchise.

With that in mind, “tactical pants” sounds ... about right. Oh, and don’t forget: His agency is also working to dismantle many federal environmental regulations.

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