Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly requested a taxpayer-funded government jet to fly him and his wife, actress Louise Linton, to their honeymoon destinations across Europe. The request was later withdrawn but has come under scrutiny following inquiries into Mnuchin's alleged use of government aircrafts for leisure travel.
On Sept. 13, the Treasury Department's Office of Inspector General opened an inquiry into Mnuchin's request for a government jet to escort him and Linton to Scotland, France and Italy, ABC News reports.
It is not clear when Mnuchin made the request, but he wed Linton on June 24 in a ceremony that was officiated by Vice President Mike Pence, according to Vanity Fair.
The 54-year-old Mnuchin is a former hedge fund manager and movie producer who is estimated to be worth roughly $300 million. It would have cost taxpayers roughly $25,000 per hour for a U.S. Air Force jet to fly Mnuchin and 36-year-old Linton around Europe for their honeymoon.
On Sept. 14, a Treasury spokesperson disclosed that the department had made the request for Mnuchin but had later withdrawn it.
"It is imperative that [Mnuchin] have access to secure communications, and it is our practice to consider a wide range of options to ensure he has these capabilities during his travel, including the possible use of military aircraft," the spokesperson told NBC News. "Treasury withdrew its request after a secure communications option was identified during the Secretary's extended travel."
Executive director Noah Bookbinder of watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington blasted the reported request: "People can do whatever they want on their own time, on their vacations and in the houses that they live in, but they can't be expecting taxpayers to foot the bill for a Hollywood lifestyle."
"You don't need a giant rulebook of government requirements to just say yourself: 'This is common sense, it's wrong,'" said Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. "That's just slap your forehead stuff."
Mnuchin defended his request during a policy summit.
"This was not about convenience," Mnuchin told Politico. "This was about national security. ... I'm very sensitive to the use of government funds."
President Donald Trump, when asked by reporters about Mnuchin's request for a government plane, said: "I don't know anything about it, I really don't. ... I've known him for a long time. He's a very honorable man."
Mnuchin has also come under scrutiny for a trip he took to Kentucky using a government jet. On Aug. 21, Mnuchin and Linton flew to Kentucky, where a picture from GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell indicated that they stood atop Fort Knox to watch the solar eclipse.
Mnuchin has maintained that the trip was government business and that the eclipse-viewing was a momentary diversion. On Sept. 11, CREW filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department after its request for more information on Mnuchin's Kentucky trip went unanswered, Newsweek reports.
When Mnuchin and his wife returned from their Kentucky trip, Linton posted a picture of them exiting the government jet on Instagram, tagging all the clothing brands that she was wearing in the image. Linton drew controversy for her response to one Instagram user who criticized her and Mnuchin for using a government jet.
"Did you think this was a personal trip?" Linton wrote to the Instagram user. "Adorable! Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel? Lololol. Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? ... I'm pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day 'trip' than you did ... You're adorably out of touch ... Thanks for the passive aggressive nasty comment. Your kids look cute. Your life looks cute."
On Aug. 22, Linton released a statement apologizing for her social media missive.
"I apologize for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response," Linton said, according to the Washington Post. "It was inappropriate and highly insensitive."
Sources: ABC News, NBC News, Newsweek, Politico, Vanity Fair, Washington Post / Featured Image: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr / Embedded Images: Vice President Pence/Wikimedia Commons, The White House/Flickr