EPA chief Scott Pruitt defends Italy trip after increased scrutiny of travel costs

Posted on: March 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt pushed back against criticism of his Italy trip in a radio interview on Thursday.

Pruitt said he took official meetings during the entire four-day trip to Italy for the G7 environmental summit in June of last year.

“These are very important meetings that take place, it’s an obligation I have to participate and so I’m a little bit dumbfounded by the kind of media narrative that these things are somehow not the focus, they’ve always been the focus,” Pruitt told a host on CBS radio in St. Louis on Thursday.

Documents released earlier this week show that the cost of the trip was $30,000 more than previously reported, bringing the total to around $120,000. An EPA document showed that the cost of travel for Pruitt’s security detail was $30,559 the week of the trip.

Previously released travel documents show that the EPA paid almost $90,000 for Pruitt and his staff to travel to Italy for meetings around the summit. The cost includes $36,000 for Pruitt and his staff to take a military jet from Cincinnati to New York so he could make his flight to Rome. The military flight was requested by the White House so Pruitt could join President Donald Trump at an event in Cincinnati, according to an ethics waiver.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog group the Environmental Integrity Project obtained both sets of documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent lawsuit, which were reviewed by ABC News.

ABC News has exclusively obtained a photo of Pruitt disembarking a military jet at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in June 2017.

After the meetings and the first day of the summit, Pruitt returned to Washington, D.C., to attend a cabinet meeting at the White House.

“This was a four-day exercise of focused efforts on decisions the United States had made on an international agreement that had a significant impact on this country,” Pruitt said in the interview Thursday.

Audio of the KMOX interview was provided to ABC News by the Sierra Club.

The cost of Pruitt’s travel for all of last year is under investigation by the EPA inspector general. The EPA has previously confirmed that Pruitt and his security detail fly first class for security reasons, citing the need to evacuate him quickly in the case of a threat.

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