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 15, 2017, trip to and from Miami for $45,136. That was $18,000 more than an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aircraft, and more than $41,000 above what a commercial flight would have cost for the five people. The reason given was that Mnuchin needed to make a secure phone call during the 2.5 hour return flight.
On Aug. 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-fiancée 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 the CREW report was riddled with falsehoods and mischaracterizations, and said the department was deeply concerned about prudence with taxpayer dollars.
“Secretary Mnuchin’s 2017 official travel totaled $1.2 million, substantially less than the $2.8 million his predecessor in the Obama administration averaged annually,” said Treasury spokesperson Tony Sayegh.
“Both figures represent the cost to the government for commercial and government air travel, train travel, hotels, vehicles and other costs for the Secretaries and their security and traveling staff,” he added.
A spokesperson pointed to a section of the CREW report that noted Mnuchin’s requests “bear a remarkable similarity” to the requests submitted by secretaries in the Obama administration.
The Treasury spokesperson also noted that its inspector general concluded that Mnuchin hadn’t broken any laws. The inspector general 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 Trump’s Cabinet members.
Former Health Secretary Tom Price resigned following revelations that he spent more than $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 canceled the order after media criticism.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke upgraded a set of office doors for a reported 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.
Updated at 10:05 a.m.