Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spent nearly $1 million on military air travel for seven trips throughout 2017, government documents show.
Independent watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sued for the documents following a high profile trip in August in which Mnuchin, a former movie producer and hedge fund manager, took his actress wife Louise Linton to Fort Knox in Kentucky on a military jet, a trip that coincided with the solar eclipse.
At the time speculation grew that the secretary made the trip solely to view the eclipse. Although he denied this was the case, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote on Facebook that the pair had watched the cosmic event together after a lunch.
Documents acquired by CREW through freedom of information requests, however, do reveal that Mnuchin’s travel expense for this journey alone cost the American taxpayer $33,000.
In June of last year, Mnuchin spent $45,000 traveling to Miami, Florida. In August he racked up $93,000 in traveling expenses getting to Las Vegas, Nevada, and $183,000 going to the Middle East in October.
One email revealed that an official in the Travel Policy and Operations at the Treasury Department suggested that the travel expense of $27,000 for a Florida trip via Gulfstream IV jet could be cut to just $688 if the secretary chose to fly commercial.
“While I understand that current availability of commercial flights do not accommodate your scheduling needs,” the unnamed official suggests, “for your awareness, the cost per person on commercial air is approx.: $688 roundtrip.”
“From the documents we obtained, it appears Secretary Mnuchin considers first and foremost his own comfort and ease, leaving the protection of taxpayer money at the bottom of his list of priorities,” said the watchdog’s chief FOIA counsel Anne Weismann.
“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.”
Mnuchin is just the latest member of the Trump administration to come under fire for loose spending. Former Health Secretary Tom Price resigned after it was revealed that he had spent $400,000 on private flights, while Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson just canceled an order he’d placed on a $31,000 office dining set.