House panel expected to interview EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s former head of security in conduct probe

The House Oversight Committee is expected to interview Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s former head of security Wednesday, the latest indication that Pruitt still faces scrutiny from Congress after back-to-back hearings last week.

Pasquale “Nino” Perrotta, a former Secret Service agent whose career in law enforcement included a stint investigating the Gambino crime family for the Bronx district attorney in New York City, led Pruitt’s 24-hour security detail, putting him at the center of several of the ethics and spending episodes under review by the EPA inspector general and congressional investigators.

In a phone interview this morning, Perrotta, who said he resigned from his job at the EPA Monday, said he plans to “fully cooperate and answer any and all questions” from Congress, starting with the transcribed interview with the House Oversight Committee Wednesday.

“All of this press is taking a toll on my family. I decided to move on and it’s been an honor to serve,” he said.

An EPA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the transcribed interview or Perrotta’s resignation.

AP
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt leaves after testifying before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 26, 2018.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, former EPA Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Chmielewski, a whistleblower who said he was forced out of the agency after raising concerns about travel and security spending, said Perrotta threatened to come to his home to take away his EPA parking pass, and worked to discredit him for questioning Pruitt’s spending on travel and security.

Chmielewski also recently told Senate Democrats that Perrotta hired Italian security guards to protect Pruitt on a trip to Italy in June 2017.

Private Italian security guards hired by Perrotta helped arrange an expansive motorcade for Pruitt and his entourage, according to the EPA official with direct knowledge of the trip. The source described the Italian additions as a personal friend of Perrotta, who joined Pruitt and his EPA staff for an hours-long dinner at an upscale restaurant.

PHOTO: Presidential candidate Donald Trump invites Kevin Chmielewski on stage during a campaign rally in Berlin, Md., April 2017.ABC
Presidential candidate Donald Trump invites Kevin Chmielewski on stage during a campaign rally in Berlin, Md., April 2017.

Democrats have also raised questions about Perrotta’s potential role in the awarding of an EPA security contract.

Edwin Steinmetz, his business partner at Sequoia Security Group — the Maryland security firm where he is a partner –- received a contract to sweep Pruitt’s office for listening devices, according to The Associated Press.

In the phone interview today, Perrotta denied ever threatening Chmielewski when asking for his EPA parking pass.

“There was no threat made on the phone at all,” he said, adding that the exchange was memorialized in written form and that another EPA agent and a White House official were on the phone as well.

He also said there is “no truth” to concerns that he improperly steered an EPA security contract to a business associate.

In an appearance on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., whose staff has already interviewed Chmielewski, confirmed that the committee is scheduling transcribed interviews with Perrotta and a number of top Pruitt aides after requesting them in a letter to the EPA last month.

Late last week the committee also received more than 1,000 pages of documents related to Pruitt’s first-class travel, trips to Italy and Morocco and controversial condo rental agreement.

“We’re going to do it the way I’m used to doing it — gather the documents, interview the witnesses and then share it at the appropriate time,” Gowdy said Sunday.