POSTLAND — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is turning up the heat on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. And Mnuchin has his wife to thank for the increased scrutiny.
The watchdog organization is seeking information from the Treasury Department about why Mnuchin and his wife, actress/producer Louise Linton, used a government plane on August 21, the day the much-anticipated total solar eclipse stretched across a band of the United States.
CREW, which suspects Mnuchin and his wife made the trip to Kentucky to view the eclipse within the “zone of totality,” stated in a lawsuit on Monday that the Treasury Department had failed to provide the requested information about the secretary’s travel or respond in a timely fashion to the group’s expedited Freedom of Information request.
The Treasury Department announced last month that the secretary traveled to Kentucky to speak at a chamber of commerce luncheon and to tour Fort Knox, where the country’s gold bullion is held. The department’s Office of Inspector General is looking into the reasons for the trip, Newsweek reports.
The August excursion came to public attention when Linton posted a photo on Instagram that showed her stylishly deplaning the government jet and identifying with hashtags all of the designer brands she was sporting. When a Portland-area commenter made a snarky comment on her post (“Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable”), Linton launched an online rant in which she insisted that she and her husband “sacrifice” so that he can serve in the Trump administration.
CREW actually does think it might have been a personal trip, one that was masquerading as government travel. It wants to review relevant Treasury Department records, it explained in the lawsuit, because they “likely will 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’s totality.” CREW added that “at a time of expected deep cuts to the federal budget, the taxpayers have a significant interest in learning the extent to which Secretary Mnuchin has used government planes for travel in lieu of commercial planes, and the justification for that use.”
The lawsuit stated that there’s “an urgent need for information about the policy’s key co-architect, especially given the anticipated timeframe within which that tax policy is likely to be considered and debated in Congress.”
Last week, Linton told Washington Life magazine that she “deserved the criticism” for her Instagram response and apologized for it. The magazine insisted she “wore no makeup [to the interview] and was dressed in exercise pants and a SoulCycle sweatshirt.”