STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Pruitt's problematic security had a playbook

Make protection feel like a perk. Cultivate a healthy paranoia. Eliminate the usual annoyances of travel.The F...

Posted: May 5, 2018 2:53 PM
Updated: May 5, 2018 2:53 PM

Make protection feel like a perk. Cultivate a healthy paranoia. Eliminate the usual annoyances of travel.

The Facebook page for Sequoia Security Group, the firm owned by Scott Pruitt's recently departed chief of security, posted a playbook of tips for providing corporate security on Facebook in 2015 -- and the suggestions read like a user guide for the same measures that have landed Pruitt in the midst of nearly a dozen federal probes.

Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta has been under fire for months, as people take a closer look at the nearly $2 million that's been spent on Pruitt's unprecedented 24-7 security team consisting of 20 agents.

Perrotta retired unexpectedly from his post Tuesday and gave an interview to the House Oversight Committee investigating Pruitt.

Perrotta, the EPA and Sequoia Security Group all did not respond to CNN requests for comment.

The Facebook post may explain the thinking behind some of these controversial decisions.

Allegations are that Pruitt exploited his position to get personal perks, such as flying first class and multiple overseas trips on the taxpayer's dime, according to interviews with CNN and details made public by members of Congress.

Some of these are stunningly close to what his security guru advocated in his "tips" post for his security firm Sequoia Security Group Inc.

"My gut reaction is, (this is) really embarrassing," said Jonathan Wackrow, a CNN law enforcement analyst who served on President Barack Obama's Secret Service detail and now works as a private security consultant. "Those were not even commercial comments, they're almost amateurish. He just did everything wrong with Pruitt."

The Facebook group's post appears to have been written by Perrotta. The post that follows this one refers to "My book" and links to Perrotta's book. The book publisher's website links back to the Facebook page.

Perrotta, a former military-turned-Secret Service agent who investigated New York City mobsters and computer hackers, began working security for federal agencies in 2004, according to his biography on his Sequoia Security Group website.

Pruitt made Perrotta the leader of the EPA security team after getting pushback from the prior chief when he refused to drive Pruitt with lights and sirens when he was late to meetings, or stuck in traffic enroute to the airport, according to sources with knowledge who talked to CNN.

It was Perrotta's willingness to offer lights and sirens that curried favor with Pruitt, the sources said.

Here's a look at the parallels:

Tip: Make protection feel like a perk

Using lights and sirens for non-urgent scenarios falls neatly into the category of one of the tips Perrotta posted to Facebook: "Make protection feel like a perk," he wrote. "Good organizational abilities and excellent research skills will prevent the lion's share of problems. These things also carry an ancillary benefit: helping an executive eliminate many of the usual annoyances of travel."

Pruitt parallel: Pruitt reportedly used his lights and sirens to get to dinner, at times. It's just one of several allegations against him that can be categorized into the same central theme: The EPA administrator was acting like a big shot, according to people who worked for him.

One of Pruitt's major criticisms is that he flew only in first class seats during his first 18 months in office, racking up a bill of more than $200,000 for taxpayers.

The EPA said it was a security precaution that made it necessary to keep him close to the front of the plane.

Even Republicans have criticized the practice.

"I would be shocked if that many people knew who Scott Pruitt was," Republican House Oversight Chair Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, told Fox News in April. "So, the notion that I have to fly first class because I don't want people to be mean to me, you need to go into another line of work if you don't want people to be mean to you, like maybe a monk where you don't come in contact with anyone."

Tip: Cultivating a "healthy paranoia"

Perrotta quotes Robert Siciliano, a personal security expert who has advised British Petroleum and Best Western, in his Facebook posting, suggesting "cultivating a 'healthy paranoia' in your executive populace. 'They should be aware of the risks they face and always informed of the worst-case scenarios,' " the post says.

Pruitt parallel: The EPA has said that extra security was required because Pruitt was receiving threats. But a whistleblower provided documents to Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Tom Carper showing that the US Secret Service could identify no "reports of behaviors of interest" against Pruitt and cites "an internal EPA Intelligence Office report that disputes the administrator's claims that the nature of the threats against him justify his expenditures."

Only one threat is under investigation by the Justice Department and it involves both Pruitt and former EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.

The Carper-Whitehouse letter cites a memo from William Stull, special agent on Pruitt's private security detail, to Perrotta, summarizing threats. It included attempts to disrupt a Pruitt speech, a social media post expressing "displeasure," a postcard saying "CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL!!! We are watching you," and an email stating: "Hi, I am considering dumping the old paint I just scraped off of my home outside your office door on Tuesday."

"Notably, none of the incidents listed in this report concerned air travel," the senators wrote.

Tip: Build a big Rolodex

Perrotta's Facebook post also points out that working with hotel personnel and fellow security professionals can help.

"Good information 'in tell' is the main ingredient to a successful EP program. It pays to work closely with executive assistants, hotel personnel and event organizers," Perrotta wrote.

Pruitt parallel: Perrotta dipped into his personal Rolodex during one controversial overseas Pruitt trip, hiring local Italian security guards who were his friends, racking up a tab of more than $30,000 for a visit to the G7 summit.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox responded by saying that the security detail "followed the same procedures" that were used for previous administrations over the past 14 years.

And another scandal dogging Pruitt involves hand-picking expensive hotels that exceeded government per diems.

In planning a trip to Australia - one that didn't end up happening - Pruitt declined to use a State Department-approved hotel that already had security in place, preferring more expensive hotels which meant higher security costs, according to a former staffer who talked to the House Oversight Democrats.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16560

Reported Deaths: 794
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds106626
Lauderdale76068
Madison75727
Neshoba72244
Jones68632
Scott66212
Forrest59239
DeSoto5598
Leake45412
Rankin4538
Holmes44130
Copiah3254
Jackson30914
Attala30718
Yazoo2914
Newton2834
Lincoln27829
Leflore27336
Oktibbeha26714
Monroe26725
Harrison2657
Lamar2485
Lowndes2419
Wayne2353
Pearl River21231
Pike20511
Adams20216
Washington1947
Noxubee1936
Warren19110
Lee1857
Covington1772
Jasper1664
Bolivar16611
Clarke15519
Smith15311
Lafayette1504
Kemper14911
Chickasaw14014
Coahoma1284
Winston1221
Clay1184
Carroll11611
Marion1169
Claiborne1145
Lawrence1081
Simpson1040
Grenada1003
Yalobusha976
Sunflower933
Itawamba907
Hancock9012
Tate881
Union867
Montgomery861
Panola853
Marshall853
Wilkinson859
Jefferson Davis813
Tippah7611
Webster673
Calhoun674
Amite651
Walthall630
Humphreys607
Tunica563
Prentiss533
Perry513
Choctaw482
Pontotoc453
Jefferson421
Tishomingo350
Greene331
Stone320
Quitman310
Tallahatchie301
Franklin292
George281
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18766

Reported Deaths: 651
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2284118
Jefferson1884103
Montgomery182343
Tuscaloosa82216
Marshall7059
Franklin5788
Lee55834
Shelby52220
Tallapoosa43266
Butler41918
Walker3812
Elmore3729
Chambers35926
Madison3464
Morgan2981
Unassigned2972
Baldwin2929
Dallas2873
Etowah26212
Lowndes25912
DeKalb2573
Autauga2395
Coffee2391
Sumter2287
Houston2265
Bullock2156
Pike2080
Colbert1872
Hale1799
Russell1770
Barbour1771
Marengo1746
Lauderdale1692
Calhoun1653
Wilcox1547
Choctaw15310
Cullman1501
Clarke1492
St. Clair1311
Randolph1287
Marion12411
Dale1230
Pickens1215
Talladega1175
Limestone1080
Chilton1051
Greene954
Winston910
Macon874
Jackson833
Henry812
Covington811
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia753
Washington726
Blount631
Lawrence510
Monroe452
Geneva440
Perry420
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar260
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Tupelo
Overcast
77° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 79°
Columbus
Broken Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 81°
Oxford
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 82°
Starkville
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 87°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather