EPA inspector general opens new probe into Pruitt's travels

WASHINGTON, April 19 (Reuters) - The Environmental Protection Agency's inspector general will investigate agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's use of his official security detail on recent personal trips, the latest in a string of congressional, White House and internal probes into his spending on security and travel.

The investigation comes at the request of Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, he announced on Thursday, a month after he asked Inspector General Arthur Elkins to look into Pruitt’s "unprecedented use" of his taxpayer-funded security detail documented in six weeks of obtained schedules and travel logs.

“While I consider matters of personal security to be extremely serious, personal security should never be used as a pretext to obtain special treatment," Whitehouse said.

Destinations to which Pruitt was accompanied by his personal security detail included Disneyland, the Rose Bowl football tournament and college basketball games. The senator also noted that Pruitt frequently requested per diem lodging expenses above the federal government’s established daily rate.

SEE ALSO: Scott Pruitt's $43K soundproof booth violated federal law: GAO

Elkins told Whitehouse in a letter saying he will launch the probe that the new review will be separate from other ongoing audits of Pruitt's travel, which include frequent trips to his home state of Oklahoma and one to Morocco, where he promoted U.S. natural gas exports to the North African country

“We have determined that the issues raised in your letter are within the authority of the OIG to review, and we will do so," Elkins said.

On Wednesday, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said he would investigate Pruitt's decision to spend $43,000 to build a private, secure phone booth for his office.

More: EPA's Scott Pruitt 

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Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), speaks to employees of the Agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Director of Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt is sworn in by Justice Samuel Alito as his wife Marilyn holds a bible during ceremony at the Executive Office in Washington, U.S., February 17, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), greets employees of the agency in Washington, U.S., February 21, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt testifies before a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), meets with Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) (L) in her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. January 4, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's pick as head of the Environmental Protectional Agency, meets with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Oklahoma Farm Bureau Vice President of Public Policy John R.H. Collison (L) meets with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) to discuss state water issues at the attorney generals office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014.

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt in a meeting at his office in Oklahoma City, July 29, 2014. 

(REUTERS/Nick Oxford)

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On the same day, dozens of Democratic U.S. senators called on Pruitt to resign over the allegations of ethical lapses.

The EPA chief has also come under fire for renting a room in a Washington condo owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist at well below market rate.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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