An ethics watchdog group suspects the trip of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Louise Linton on Monday to Fort Knox was actually an elaborate excuse to go see the Monday’s total solar eclipse.
The trip came under scrutiny Tuesday following Linton’s Instagram rant against an Oregon mother who criticized the Scottish actress for bragging about the expensive designer clothes she wore while accompanying her husband on the trip to Lexington, Kentucky.
“Great #daytrip to #Kentucky! #nicest #people #beautiful #countryside #rolandmouret pants #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf #valentinorockstudheels #valentino #usa,” Linton posted on Instagram.
“Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable,” Jennifer Miller responded, sparking a lengthy rant from Linton in which she poor-shamed the Oregon mother and called her “adorably out of touch.”
Though she later deleted the photo, Linton’s high-profile rant drew the attention of ethics watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has since filed a public records request detailing the "authorization for and the costs" of the couple's use of government resources to travel to the path of totality for the solar eclipse.
"The requested records 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," CREW said.
We just FOIA'd all records for Mnuchin & Louise Linton's trip to KY on a gov't plane. There's more to this story & we're going to find it. pic.twitter.com/3wsMdveuUI— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) August 23, 2017
That day, Mnuchin joined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at an event in Louisville and a then traveled to Fort Knox, ostensibly to tour the U.S. Army gold depository, though a Louisville Courier-Journal report suggested Mnuchin and Linton also went there to view the eclipse. CREW, the ethics watchdog, alleges the couple planned the trip around the eclipse and used government resources for personal purposes.
“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 group said in its FOIA request.
A treasury spokeswoman denied any wrongdoing by Mnuchin in a statement to CNBC and noted the couple was reimbursing the government for the cost of Linton’s travel, as is typical in similar circumstances.
"The Secretary was on official government travel to Kentucky… the trip was originally planned for earlier in August but was postponed to accommodate the Congressional calendar,” the statement read.