Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin asked for a military jet to take him and his wife, actress Louise Linton, on their European honeymoon earlier this summer, the Treasury Department confirmed on Wednesday.
ABC News, citing anonymous sources, first reported that Mnuchin put the request in writing and that it led to an “inquiry” by the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General.
Mnuchin and Linton traveled to Scotland, France and Italy after their late-June wedding. The request for a military plane was eventually deemed unnecessary after further consideration.
A Treasury Department spokesman released a statement Wednesday evening acknowledging that Mnuchin had requested the jet, but said the secretary had done so because he wanted to maintain secure communications during extended travel.
As a member of President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, Mnuchin “has responsibility for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence,” the spokesman said. “We have multiple issues around the world where the secretary is directly involved in national security, notably North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela, among others.”
The spokesman added: “It is imperative that he 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.”
Requests for military jets are fairly unusual, though not unprecedented, for personal travel. Such trips can cost tens of thousands of dollars to operate per hour. Treasury secretaries tend to fly commercially but have used government planes for overseas work trips.
Mnuchin, one of the wealthiest members of Trump’s cabinet, is a former Goldman Sachs banker and movie producer who also made millions in real estate. He is a key figure for Trump, serving as lead administration official on Trump’s top domestic priority, tax reform.
His use of government aircraft was already under scrutiny after he took Linton on a trip to Louisville and Fort Knox in Kentucky in July.
A government investigator is looking into whether Mnuchin used the trip to get a better view of the solar eclipse with Linton. Mnuchin has denied that, saying he was in Kentucky for work meetings on tax reform, and has said he will reimburse the government for Linton’s travel costs.
Linton herself stirred controversy this summer when she lashed out at a commentator on Instagram who had criticized her on social media for flying on a government jet with Mnuchin. Linton eventually apologized.