People who are considered unfriendly might show up

Scott Pruitt has been hiding his activities and schedule from public view.

But a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club, the environmental group, has resulted in the release of 10,703 pages of documents that detail Mr. Pruitt’s plans for travel and appearances nationwide. The documents offer visibility for the first time not only into many of his appearances but into the agency’s pursuit of secrecy as well.

The emails — concerning events like a closed-door speech to power plant owners in Missouri, a secret visit to Toyota’s auto plant in Texas and a town-hall style speech to farmers in Iowa where organizers clamped down on questions — show the E.P.A.’s chief concern was about controlling who would be in the room with Mr. Pruitt and what could be said.

The EPA said in the past that it was because of an unprecedented number of death threats.

However, the documents provide new indications — supported by interviews with current and former aides to Mr. Pruitt at the E.P.A. — that the concern with secrecy is less about security than a desire by Mr. Pruitt to avoid criticism from detractors or even unexpected questions from allies.

“The security aspect is smoke and mirrors,” said Kevin Chmielewski, Mr. Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff for operations, who is one of several former E.P.A. officials who have said that they were fired or sidelined for disagreeing with Mr. Pruitt’s management practices.

Breaking with all of his predecessors at the E.P.A. for the last 25 years, as well as other members of President Trump’s cabinet, he does not release a list of public speaking events and he discloses most official trips only after they are over. Mr. Pruitt doesn’t hold news conferences, and in one episode, journalists who learned of an event were ejectedfrom the premises after an E.P.A. official threatened to call the police.

The E.P.A. also declined to make public a copy of Mr. Pruitt’s detailed calendar until it was sued by The New York Times and other organizations.

This is the EPA, not the Manhattan Project. Its work is not supposed to be secret.

A driving concern among E.P.A. officials, the emails show, is to separate potential guests into two camps: “friendly” and “unfriendly.” Events can be reorganized at the last minute if there are concerns that people who are considered unfriendly might show up.

“Sixteen friendly Industry leaders will be invited to attend they will arrive at 8:30 with the Administrator expected to arrive at 9:00 a.m.,”said one memo, shared among top E.P.A. officials last September, in advance of a visit by Mr. Pruitt to Colorado Springs, where Mr. Pruitt was scheduled to speak with the National Association of Homebuilders. The event was closed to the public and not announced publicly ahead of time.

Gerald M. Howard, the organization’s top executive, “will moderate Q&A on Industry issues set forth in advance and possibly from the audience — who are all industry friendly and supportive of Mr. Pruitt and his efforts,” the description said.

No dissent allowed – no dissent even allowed to attend, or be aware there is anything to attend. Dissent systematically and secretly ruled out in advance by not being invited or informed.

Norm Eisen sums it up.

2 Responses to “People who are considered unfriendly might show up”