The plot thickens around the controversial Kentucky trip taken Monday by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton.
It looks like the trip provided an opportunity for Mnuchin and Linton, clad in her famous designer clothes, to get in prime viewing of the historical eclipse of the sun that passed over the United States Monday.
In fact, the couple got access to a unique and highly secured U.S. government location — Fort Knox, the home of $180 billion in gold owned by the federal government — and at a time when the eclipse would have been in its totality.
But the Treasury Department said Friday that the Washington couple didn’t spend much time watching the eclipse while at Fort Knox, according to Vanity Fair. Mnuchin was there to check out the gold deposited and to talk to personnel about security procedures.
The Kentucky trip, billed by the U.S. Treasury Department as official government business, has erupted into yet another scandal besetting the Trump administration.
That’s due to Linton’s notorious but since deleted Marie Antoinette-flavored Instagram post. In it, the 36-year-old sometime D-list actress posted a glamour shot of her arriving in Kentucky and disembarking from a private plane with her former hedge fund manager/Hollywood financier husband.
She also boasted about the luxury designer clothes she’s wearing and about being rich, while blasting an Oregon mother for being poor after the mother left a comment asking if taxpayers were footing the bill for her travel.
Now, others are asking the same question, especially after learning that the Kentucky trip included a swing by Fort Knox at prime eclipse time.
The Washington D.C. watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (C.R.E.W.) has filed a F.O.I.A. (Freedom of Information Act request) to review the purpose of the couple’s trip, Vanity Fair said.
The group is concerned that Mnuchin and Linton planned the trip around the solar eclipse, and they used a private plane, rather than a commercial flight, to transport them to a place where they could view the eclipse’s totality.
Vanity Fair, citing a Washington Post report, said that Munchin and Linton flew to Kentucky to join Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Greater Louisville Inc. luncheon for the local chamber of commerce. That event was scheduled to take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The group then traveled to Fort Knox, outside Louisville, which was near the path of totality between 12:59 p.m. and 3:51 p.m. McConnell posted a photo to his official Facebook page of him and Mnuchin standing in front of the fort’s main entrance, with a caption that initially mentioned their plans to view the eclipse on the roof. That caption has since been deleted.
It was originally reported that the White House power couple, along with McConnell, watched the eclipse from the roof of Fort Knox.
On Friday, the Treasury department issued a statement, denying that Secretary Mnuchin scheduled the trip around the eclipse and saying the trip was originally arranged for early August but postponed to accommodate the congressional calendar. The Treasury department also said the group traveled to Fort Knox to tour the mint, not to watch the eclipse.
Mint staff had suggested the group could watch from the roof but Mnuchin said they should just watch from the lawn. Their viewing of the eclipse was said to be “brief.” In fact, the viewing occurred “prior to the actual time of the full eclipse.” If that’s true, that means Linton didn’t get to experience the totality.
“The Secretary was more interested in meeting with Mint personnel, reviewing the security procedures, and viewing the contents of the Depository,” the statement read.
On Thursday, Jordan Libowtz, the director of watchdog group, told Vanity Fair that “a number of things don’t quite add up.” For one thing, the assertion that Mnuchin was eager to tour the mint raises questions. “First, why was [Mnuchin] going to inspect the gold in the first place? He’s the first treasury secretary to visit [the gold vault] in nearly 70 years. No one has gone since 1948.”
By not flying commercial, Mnuchin and Linton also bucked federal government policy. The Defense Department encourages government employees to make all attempts at minimizing travel costs. This would include avoiding trips via private plane, which federal documents show has a reimbursable rate of up to $10,000 an hour.
After Linton’s Instagram apologized for her Instagram snafu, the Treasury Department said the couple would reimburse the government for Linton’s travel expenses. An aide for McConnell told the Post that he was not on the plane with Mnuchin and Linton.
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