By Carolyn McAtee Cerbin, USA Today, March 15, 2018
A new report by a Washington watchdog group says Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has racked up nearly $1 million in taxpayer-funded trips that could have been handled through commercial airlines.
“From the documents we obtained, it appears Secretary Mnuchin considers first and foremost his own comfort and ease, leaving the protection of taxpayer money at the bottom of his list of priorities,” CREW Chief FOIA Counsel Anne Weismann said in a press release.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) obtained documents tracking Mnuchin’s travel through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) after Mnuchin was criticized for taking a military jet to Fort Knox, Ky., with his wife, Louise Linton, that coincided with last year’s total solar eclipse in August.
Linton herself drew ire because of an Instagram post in which she deplaned from the trip wearing designer clothes then got into an online tiff with a woman who responded to Linton’s boasting.
When the Treasury Department failed to turn over Mnuchin’s travel records, CREW sued and months later received records which, though heavily redacted, “showed that Mnuchin apparently abused his access to military and non-commercial aircraft for both business travel and occasional personal travel,” according to a Thursday press release.
CREW reported their analysis showed the Treasury secretary has “billed taxpayers for the most expensive flight options available at every turn, appearing to never even consider flying commercial as his predecessors did.”
Documents obtained by CREW show that between the spring and fall of 2017, Mnuchin took eight separate trips on military aircraft at a total of nearly $1 million. None of the requests for White House Mission designation — needed to justify the use of government aircraft — indicated how they were made at President Trump’s direction.
“The public still has no reasonable explanation for why Secretary Mnuchin apparently has never used commercial aircraft while his predecessors did, or why he needs military aircraft that can accommodate 120 passengers when his travel manifests contain far fewer names,” Weismann said.
Read the whole report here.
Mnuchin isn’t the only Trump Cabinet officer to be criticized for his travel expenses. Tom Price resigned as head of Health and Human Services Sept. 29 after apologizing for spending an estimated $400,000 on private planes used for official business.
CREW has been keeping an eye on spending by Trump appointees. Candidate Donald Trump pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Recently CREW pointed out Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson had ordered a mahogany dining room set for his office costing more than $31,000. Whistleblower complaints filed by Helen Foster, a high-ranking HUD civil servant, alleged that a top official repeatedly told Foster to “find money,” for the purchase. Carson has since canceled the order.