By David Vandygriff
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's now infamous flight on a taxpayer funded federal government plane, with his wife, Louise Linton, to tour Ft. Knox is now officially under investigation. A private watchdog organization complained after a news article noted they had watched the historic solar eclipse from atop the building that houses the nation's gold reserves.
The Inspector General of the Dept. of the Treasury has opened an investigation into why Mnuchin opted to take an Air Force jet, and if the couple timed the trip to have a great view of the solar eclipse. Mnuchin even bragged on Twitter that he was the first Treasury Secretary to tour the facility in decades.
Official federal policy states that even for cabinet members, commercial flights should be taken when traveling domestically, to save on costs to the taxpayers. The standard reimbursement rate for trips on planes like the one munchkin used is $10,000 per hour.
“We are reviewing the circumstances of the Secretary’s August 21 flight . . . to determine whether all applicable travel, ethics, and appropriation laws and policies were observed,” counsel Rich Delmar told The Washington Post in a statement Thursday. “When our review is complete, we will advise the appropriate officials, in accordance with the Inspector General Act and established procedures.”
Not only did Mnuchin and Linton tour Ft. Knox and take time to watch the solar eclipse, but they also attended a local area chamber of commerce luncheon where each delivered a speech.
“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 this week, The Washington Post adds. “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.”
The Post notes that "only on rare occasions" have cabinet members in the past flown on government planes for domestic travel. The Post's Glenn Kessler noted as much via Twitter:
Linton drew attention to the trip when she posted to Instagram a photo of herself and listed the designer labels she was wearing. Commenters noted that the trip on a government jet was to Kentucky, one of the nation's poorest states, and accused her of being insensitive. Linton then lashed out, chastising one of the people who had criticized her on the social media site. Her angry tirade drew national attention, and she was forced to apologize, which she did through her publicist.