By Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/.
While most of America shuffled out of their offices and into the streets to view Monday’s solar eclipse, Steve Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton, had a much more exclusive view on the roof of Fort Knox in Kentucky, home of $180 billion in gold owned by the federal government. To get there—to view the eclipse while literally standing on top of gold—they took the private flight that eventually got Linton in trouble for boasting about her wealth and calling an Instagram commenter “adorably out of touch.” Washington watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (C.R.E.W.) is filing a F.O.I.A. to review the purpose of the couple’s trip.
According to the Treasury, Mnuchin’s purpose in Kentucky was to join Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the Greater Louisville Inc. luncheon for the local chamber of commerce, an event that was scheduled to take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m, according to The Washington Post. Later, the pair, along with Linton, traveled to Fort Knox to view the eclipse near the path of totality sometime between 12:59 p.m. and 3:51 p.m., when the eclipse occurred. McConnell posted a photo to his official Facebook page of him and Mnuchin standing in front of the fort’s main entrance.
According to C.R.E.W.’s Web site, its request of government documents “would shed light on the justification for Secretary Mnuchin’s use of a government plane, rather than a commercial flight, for a trip that seems to have been planned around the solar eclipse and to enable the Secretary to secure a viewpoint in the path of the eclipse’s totality.”
According to the Post, 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 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.
It’s one thing to get in trouble for bragging about your designer clothes; it’s quite another to get in trouble for using taxpayer dollars to view an eclipse while standing on a Scrooge McDuck-worthy vault of gold. Flying commercial for the rest of their lives might not be enough to help Mnuchin and Linton overcome that kind of bad press.
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