Thursday , September 14, 2017 - 4:46 AM
(c) 2017, The Washington Post.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requested a military jet to fly him and his wife, Louise Linton, to their European honeymoon this summer, raising questions again about the wealthy couple’s use of government aircraft.
A Treasury Department spokesman said in a statement Wednesday that the request was made so that Mnuchin, who is a member of the National Security Council, would have access to secure communications as he traveled abroad.
“It is imperative that he have access to secure communications, and it is our practice to consider a wide range of options to ensure he has these capabilities during his travel, including the possible use of military aircraft.”
The department withdrew its request “after a secure communications option was identified during the Secretary’s extended travel.”
An Air Force spokesman told ABC News, who first reported the story, that the jet would cost $25,000 an hour to operate, though it is unclear if that included costs like maintenance and fuel. Government workers and troops on travel typically accrue costs for food and lodging.
It is also unknown which aircraft was proposed or what command the pilot would have been pulled from. Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington maintains a fleet of C-37As, the military equivalent of the Gulfstream V, for executive travel.
The couple married in June.
The news of the request comes as the White House and Republican leaders plan to reveal new details of their goal of cutting corporate and individual taxes the week of Sept. 25. In a description of the plan, Mnuchin predicted that many wealthy Americans would get a tax cut.
But it has been the secretary’s travel that has garnered headlines.
Mnuchin and Linton took a government aircraft to Kentucky on a trip that involved viewing the solar eclipse on Aug. 21, drawing wide condemnation and accusations that the former Goldman Sachs banker and Hollywood producer was using public funds for potentially voluntary travel as Trump seeks to rein in government waste.
The Kentucky trip ended within miles of the path of totality, the narrow band across the United States where the moon totally blotted out the sun during the solar eclipse. Mnuchin viewed it from one of the most restricted sites in the world: Fort Knox.
Treasury officials have defended Mnuchin’s Kentucky visit as “official government travel” worthy of the flight aboard an Air Force jet, The Post’s Drew Harwell reported.
“The Secretary of the Treasury at times needs to use a government aircraft to facilitate his travel schedule and to ensure uninterrupted access to secure communications,” a Treasury spokesperson said. “The Department of the Treasury sought and received the appropriate approval from the White House. Secretary Mnuchin has reimbursed the government for the cost of Ms. Linton’s travel in accordance with the long-standing policy regarding private citizens on military aircraft.”
Linton, an actress, drew intense scrutiny after she posted an Instagram glamour shot of herself deplaning and tagged a host of high-end designers such as Hermes and Valentino in the photo, then called a critic who was offended at the idea of publicly funded travel as “adorably out of touch.”
Linton later apologized.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, criticized the recent travel request.
“You don’t need a giant rule book of government requirements to just say yourself, ‘This is common sense, it’s wrong,‘” the senator told ABC News.
“That’s just slap-your-forehead stuff.”
Rich Delmar, counsel to the inspector general, told The Washington Post in a statement, “The Office of the Treasury Inspector General is reviewing all requests for and use of government aircraft.” He would not go into further detail or discuss reports about the request.
Keywords: Steven Mnuchin, Louise Linton, Donald Trump, Eclipse
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