President-elect Donald Trump promised the country he’d have the best Cabinet in history. He didn’t say when.
There’s been considerable turnover as he sorts folks out. David Shulkin is gone. Rex Tillerson is gone. Tom Price is gone. Not to mention a battalion of White House aides.
Ben Carson got in trouble for ordering $30,000 office place settings; he threw his wife under the bus for that one.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt got in trouble for some expensive travels, substantial security costs and pay raises for aides. Then he underwent one of those media rumor gusts from unnamed sources about being fired tomorrow or the next day or — oh, look — not at all. He’s still here!
Monday for the first time President Trump admitted some mistakes in his Cabinet choices. During a tax-cut event in Miami, Trump was praising Treasury Secy. Steve Mnuchin and Labor Secy. Alex Acosta when he made an uncharacteristic admission:
Not all of my choices were good, but they were great ones.
Now, Pruitt is facing fire from the congressional Office of Government Accountability for installing a $43,000 secure telephone booth in his office.
Of course, secure government phones do make sense in an era of rampant meddling, hacking and unmasking. But $43,000 for a secure phone booth? In an agency that deals with sensitive and controversial political issues, which are not exactly missile defense?
The commander-in-chief has secure telephones everywhere he goes. So, how does the president get along without a secure phone booth with a cement shield to step in like Maxwell Smart?
According to agency reports, it paid about $24,000 for the phone booth itself plus more than an additional $20,000 to install a drop ceiling, remove closed-circuit TV equipment and pour concrete around the booth.
The agency claimed the expenses were necessary “to make and receive phone calls and to discuss sensitive information, including classified telephone calls up to the top secret level.”
To taxpayer eyes on tax-filing deadline day, the outrageous expenses are, well, outrageous.
GAO took no position on the need for such equipment.
But it did point out that the agency violated the law by paying more than $5,000 for office equipment without notifying Congress.
Hey, no excuse, right? With the new secure phone booth, Pruitt could have easily called Capitol Hill — quite securely.