WASHINGTON — An internal watchdog at the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that Administrator Scott Pruitt demanded and received unprecedented, around-the-clock protection from armed officers on his first day – a detail that appears at odds with past claims that the stepped-up security measures came in direct response to death threats.

EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins said in letters to Democratic senators that Pruitt himself initiated the 24-hour-a day protection, which far exceeds the part-time security afforded to past EPA administrators.

Scott Pruitt

Elkins’ letter comes after Pruitt cited an August 2017 report by a staffer in the inspector general’s office detailing more than a dozen investigations of threats against him and his Obama administration predecessor as justification for stepped-up security measures, which has included flying first class on commercial airliners.

Elkins said that 2017 summary was requested by Pruitt’s office and was not intended to justify tighter security. Marked “For Official Use Only,” the internal summary was then improperly made public, Elkins said.

“The (Office of Inspector General) is not a decision maker for EPA,” Elkins wrote, adding that Pruitt’s staff began pushing for his office to assess threats against Pruitt within days of his arrival in Washington. “The OIG declined and informed EPA management that it is not the role of the OIG to provide a threat assessment, but rather the OIG is limited to the role of investigating and reporting back the facts.”

The Associated Press reported last month that Pruitt’s preoccupation with his safety came at a steep cost to taxpayers, as his swollen security detail blew through overtime budgets and at times diverted officers away from investigating environmental crimes. Altogether, the agency has spent about $3 million on Pruitt’s 20-member full-time security detail, which is more than three times the size of his predecessor’s part-time security contingent.

In testimony before two House subcommittees last month, Pruitt sought to put the blame for any missteps on his subordinates, saying that his security team decided he should fly in first class and that his chief of staff approved questionable raises.

On Wednesday, Pruitt is set to testify before a Senate committee where he is likely to face another round of sharp questions about his administration of the federal environmental agency. EPA’s inspector general and congressional committees are now conducting about a dozen investigations into actions by Pruitt and his closest aides.

Elkins wrote Monday in response to questions from Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. The Democrats said Monday that the new disclosures undercut Pruitt’s claims about the reasons for his pricey security enhancements.

“A threat to a federal employee’s personal security is extremely serious, but so is using security as pretext for special treatment on the public dime,” the senators said in a joint statement.