Scott Pruitt Cancels Israel Trip Amid Backlash Over Travel Expenses

The EPA head's habit of flying business or first class sparked outrage from some government ethics groups last week.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has scrapped plans for a business trip to Israel previously scheduled for this week, an agency official said.

News of the decision came roughly a week after The Washington Post reported on Pruitt’s expensive air travel habits, prompting criticism from government ethics watchdogs. The EPA head regularly flies business or first class, which often costs American taxpayers thousands of dollars more than equivalent seats in coach, according the report.

Pruitt had been scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday and planned to learn about the country’s sustainability efforts in Jerusalem and the port city of Haifa, according to the Post. But EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told HuffPost that the trip had been called off.

“We decided to postpone; the administrator looks forward to going in the future,” Bowman said in an email. She did not comment on why the trip was canceled.

EPA receipts obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through Freedom of Information Act requests showed Pruitt and his staffers racked up at least $90,000 worth of taxpayer-funded travel expenses in early June alone.

During an interview last week with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Pruitt said he was not involved with bookings related to his travel and noted that his security team and chief of staff made those types of decisions.

The EPA’s Office of Criminal Enforcement told Politico that Pruitt’s security team recommended he book first or business class to avoid confrontations with his critics at airports or on airplanes.

“The team leader felt that he was being placed in a situation where he was unsafe on the flight,” Henry Barnet, the office’s director, told Politico. “He was approached in the airport numerous times, to the point of profanities being yelled at him and so forth.”

Pruitt is currently under investigation by the EPA’s inspector general for his use of military and private flights after the Post reported last September that the administrator took four such flights costing taxpayers more than $58,000. The internal agency probe is also looking into Pruitt’s frequent trips to his home state of Oklahoma.