Mnuchin: Jet request was about security
WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday the initial request for use of a government plane for his European trip last month was about national security and not personal convenience on his honeymoon.
Mnuchin said that, as a member of the National Security Council, he needed a secure communication link with Washington, and his staff put in a request for an Air Force jet for his trip with his wife Louise Linton to Scotland, France and Italy.
But he said it was just an option being explored and once it became clear he could obtain secure communications links without a government plane, the request was withdrawn.
“Let me just set the record straight. First of all, the government never paid for any of my personal travel,” Mnuchin said at a conference sponsored by Politico. “This had nothing to do with convenience. This was purely about national security.”
Mnuchin denied reports that he and his wife used a government plane to travel to Kentucky so they could view last month’s solar eclipse. He said the trip had originally been scheduled for a different time.
“You know, people in Kentucky took this stuff very serious,” he told the conference. “Being a New Yorker and (living for a time in) California, I was like, the eclipse? Really? I don’t have any interest in watching the eclipse.”
He did view the event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell, R-KY., as part of a visit to Fort Knox. He said he scrapped a staff plan to view it from the roof of a building at Fort Knox and instead looked at it briefly from the ground.
Asked by the moderator if it was an “eclipse boondoggle,” Mnuchin said, “We went to see Fort Knox … Fort Knox is a symbol of the economic might of our country.”
President Donald Trump said he had “total confidence” in his Treasury secretary. “I have known him a very long time,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One. “He is a very straight shooter.”
The Treasury’s Office of Inspector General, however, confirmed Thursday that it was looking into “all requests for and use of government aircraft” at the department.
The Kentucky trip sparked controversy after Mnuchin’s wife posted a photo on Instagram that showed Mnuchin and Linton stepping off the government jet.