Steven Mnuchin’s Flights on Military Jets Cost Taxpayers $1 Million, Says Watchdog Group
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is apparently a big fan of flying on military jets and having the taxpayer foot the bill. According to records obtained by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Suicide Squad producer commandeered military jets for seven trips he took “between the spring and fall of 2017″ at a cost of “nearly $1 million” in public funds. The Treasury Department’s inspector general raised concerns about Mnuchin’s extravagant travel spending in November, but ultimately found no wrongdoing on the secretary’s part. However, the inspector did suggest that members of the Trump administration needed to start doing a better job of justifying their need for private flights, rather than commercial ones.
Mnuchin “never seems to consider flying commercial,” CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz told CNBC. “He’s always looking for the biggest and best private and military plane.”
The law dictates that government planes are to be used exclusively for “official purposes” and only “when there is “no commercial airline or aircraft…reasonably available,” the CREW report states. Records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act appear to show that Mnuchin booked private and military airfare for a mix of official and personal reasons, even when plenty of commercial options were available.
“The public still has no reasonable explanation for why Secretary Mnuchin apparently has never used commercial aircraft, while his predecessors did; why his travel is not designed to minimize costs by for example, scheduling confidential calls when he is not on a short domestic flight; or why he needs military aircraft that can accommodate 120 passengers when his travel manifests contain far fewer names,” CREW’s report reads.
Last year, Mnuchin withdrew a request to book a military jet for his honeymoon to Europe after the inquiry caught the attention of the inspector general. The aircraft cost $25,000 an hour to operate.
Mnuchin is the latest on a long list of Trump aides accused of misappropriating public funds. HUD Secretary Ben Carson drew scrutiny after ordering a $31,000 dining set for his office, EPA Director Scott Pruitt spent $25,000 on a soundproof booth for his, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned last September after spending over $1 million of taxpayer money on private planes.
The Treasury Department issued a statement defending Mnuchin to Politico:
“Much of CREW’s ‘report’ consists of falsehoods and mischaracterizations,“ Treasury said in a statement. “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.
“These documents explicitly demonstrate Treasury’s concern for being prudent with taxpayer dollars while fulfilling important departmental responsibilities,” the statement said.
Politico previously reported that former Trump adviser and Apprentice villain Omarosa Manigault was fired after it was discovered she was allegedly abusing White House car-service privileges. While that’s certainly a fireable offense, it sounds like small potatoes compared to requesting a military plane for every domestic flight.