Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
spent nearly $1 million on seven military aircraft trips between the spring and fall of 2017, according to documents
gathered by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
For example, Mnuchin employed a military aircraft on a June 15th, 2017 trip to and from Miami for $45,136. That was $18,000 more than an FAA craft, and over $41,000 more than commercial flights would have cost for the five flyers. The reason given was that Mnuchin needed to make a secure phone call during the 2.5 hour return flight.
On August 28-29, the military plane was employed at a cost of $94,100.50, with no apparent indication that a cheaper FAA aircraft was sought, according to CREW.
In other trips, the cost differences were smaller. In requesting the military aircraft for a one-day trip to Ottawa, Canada on June 9, 2017, Mnuchin’s team paid about $900 more than an FAA craft. Crew alleged that the requested list of 20 passengers included Mnuchin’s then-fiance Louise Linton, and six members of the media. In other circumstances, passengers without security clearances were specifically left off the manifests.
“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,” said Anne Weismann, an official for the left-leaning government watchdog.
A Treasury Spokesperson said that the CREW report was riddled with falsehoods and mischaracterizations, and said that the department was deeply concerned about prudence with taxpayer dollars.
“Even CREW concedes that the Secretary’s travel requests ‘bear a remarkable similarity’ to the requests submitted by secretaries in the Obama Administration, using the same approval process and level of justification,” the spokesperson said.
They also noted that Treasury’s Inspector General concluded that Mnuchin hadn’t broken any laws. The IG also found that there was a “disconnect” between the required standard of proof for justifying such requests and the actual proof provided.
But CREW noted that the use of military aircraft was more frequent for Mnuchin than previous Treasury Secretaries.
“The one area where Secretary Mnuchin appears to have parted company from his predecessors is his use of military aircraft for domestic flights at a cost of nearly $200,000. Dating back to 2006, Treasury secretaries used military aircraft for only three wholly domestic flights,” the organization found.
“During that same period, Treasury secretaries made at least seven trips in whole or in part on commercial aircraft, while the documents Treasury provided CREW show that to date Secretary Mnuchin apparently has not made a single trip on a commercial aircraft,” it added.
CREW sued for records following a highly publicized trip Mnuchin and Linton took to Fort Knox, Ky., in August. The two are now married.
The trip, on a military jet, coincided with the total solar eclipse, and led to speculation that Mnuchin had planned the trip in order to take in the cosmic event. Mnuchin denied the charges.
There have been a series of of reports on lavish spending among the Trump Cabinet members.
Former Health Secretary Tom Price
resigned following revelations that he spent over $400,000 in taxpayer money on chartered flights.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson
planned to spend $31,000 on a dining set for his office. He cancelled the order after media criticism.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
upgraded a set of office doors for a sum of $139,000.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt
faced scrutiny for regularly flying first class, despite the availability of cheaper options.
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin
had to reimburse the government after improperly expensing a ticket for his wife to join him on a European trip, plus a gift of tickets to see tennis at Wimbledon.
This article was published on thehill