Scandal boy Scott Pruitt’s tenure as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator may now be long over, but the $US43,000 ($58,183) paranoia chamber he had illegally installed in his office hasn’t seen the light of day until now.
E&E News has obtained the first publicly released photo of the secure phone booth Pruitt had installed in the EPA administrator’s office in 2017 via a Freedom of Information Act request. The booth was one of the many ways Pruitt abused his position to obtain bizarre personal perks when he wasn’t eviscerating environmental regulations — such as a 24/7 security detail to handle protesters, a sweetheart condo deal, $US120,000 ($162,372) in opposition research against his critics, secret work email accounts, a bulletproof desk, and luxury travel and amenities such as 5-star dinner in Rome with a climate change-denying Catholic cardinal who also happened to be an alleged pedophile.
According to E&E News, the EPA denied their requests to release images of the soundproof room for the last three years, saying doing so might be “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy” and “could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of an individual.” Now the agency has conceded, sending E&E an image named “2018-09-04_TheBooth_08.jpg” (indicating it was likely taken after Pruitt’s tenure as administrator), which depicts the room where Pruitt panicked over eavesdropping from what appears to be his private demon shitter.
— Timothy Cama (@Timothy_Cama) August 31, 2020
Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators determined Pruitt broke the law by exceeding a $US5,000 ($6,766) cap on office improvements without notifying Congress, as well as by violating the Antideficiency Act. (The EPA has declined to file a required report on the violation to the GAO, the president, and Congress, despite threats from Democrats to withhold some funding.) Pruitt initially claimed that the booth was a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), which government officials use to discuss sensitive or classified information, but conceded to Congress in 2018 that it didn’t meet SCIF standards.
The EPA already had a SCIF, but it was on the other floor, and thus apparently not close enough to the toilet for Pruitt’s particular needs. Nonetheless, he only placed one outbound call from the booth, records obtained by the Washington Post showed:
He placed only one phone call to the White House, newly released records from the agency show. It lasted five minutes…The new documents do not show how many incoming calls Pruitt received in the soundproof booth, which he installed last year. In April, Pruitt testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee that he used the booth sparingly.
“It’s for confidential communications, and it’s rare,” he told Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).
Andrew Wheeler, Pruitt’s equally pollution-loving but ever so slightly more prudent successor, said in 2018 he had never used the booth. No word on the toilet, though.