Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt and his staff will tell you that his significant travel expenses were necessary for his personal security, but that wouldn't explain why his staff also take expensive trips without him.
Pruitt's aides and security agents reportedly spent $45,000 on 3-day trip to Australia as part of an "advance" team to set up meetings for Pruitt which he ultimately didn't attend.
Two of his aides and three security agents flew to Australia last August on business-class tickets costing roughly $9,000 each to set up meetings for the EPA administrator. [...]
In addition to the three security agents, the team that went to Australia to prepare for Pruitt’s trip included his advance director, Millan Hupp, and Kevin Chmielewski, his deputy chief of staff at the time. Chmielewski has since left the agency.
The officials were away for only a few days, flying from Washington to Sydney on Aug. 26 and returning on Aug. 29. An economy class ticket for the trip would have cost about $1,400.
This doesn't mean it has never happened, but I've never heard of an EPA administrator's staff making a trip like this to plan meetings that could have been planned over the phone, email, or video conference. Being the EPA administrator is a very important job, but it's not even a cabinet level position. Scott Pruitt is not the Godfather.
The EPA says Pruitt didn't attend the meetings his staff supposedly set up during their trip because of Hurricane Harvey, and that's plausible, but I'm still left wondering why the trip was even necessary. Moreover, just like Pruitt's secret trip to Morocco, I have a hard time believing these people flew to Australia just to set up a meeting. This is not an ethical group of people and their words probably shouldn't be taken at face value.
The only reason we're learning about this now is because someone at the EPA leaked it to the press.