Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has flown on military planes eight times since March, at a cost of more than $800,000.
In a report released by the Treasury Department’s inspector-general, no wrongdoing was found on the part of Mnuchin for his use of the planes. The inspector-general, however, was disappointed at the lack of solid justification over such reckless use of government planes.
The Trump administration, like the ones before him, is beholden to rules that stipulate military planes can only be used in rare circumstances. Any trip taken on a military jet must be a “White House Support Mission,” meaning that the president has deemed the travel to be necessary. Other elements that factor in are whether commercial flights are reasonably available, or if the trip is taken during an emergency.
As CNN’s overview of Mnuchin’s trip shows, not many of them fulfill this criteria. The trips included a round trip to New York to meet POTUS at Trump Towers. Mnuchin had also requested military planes for his honeymoon trip to Great Britain, France and Italy in August but withdrew the request after a meeting with the White House deputy chief of staff.
Mnuchin’s office had claimed that because the secretary planned to meet France’s finance minister during his trip, he would need “access to secure communications,” which would only be possible on a military plane. Mnuchin was assured that he would be provided with secure communications on a commercial plane also.
An oft-cited reason used by Mnuchin to justify his extensive use of military planes was “scheduling, logistics, and communications need.” The vague reason was sometimes paired with Mnuchin’s need to securely monitor “potential for developments during travel related to a number of issues.”
Mnuchin’s trips came under scrutiny when his wife, Louise Linton, posted a photo of herself disembarking a plane emblazoned with official government markings. The photo was captioned “Great #day trip to #Kentucky!” Following this was a trail of hashtags for the various articles of branded clothing she wore.
Linton, when admonished by a commentator for her supposed use of tax money to pay for the trip, condescendingly berated her for having less money than Linton and her husband.