Earlier this week, Louise Linton, the wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin posted an Instagram picture of her walking off a government plane, individually tagging every high fashion designer she was wearing and hashtagging her #hermesscarf.
“Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable,” a commenter identified as Jenni Miller, an Oregon mother, wrote.
Linton, in a move perfect for the Trump era, responded, writing, “Aw!!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! 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? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?”
— Margarita Noriega (@margarita) August 22, 2017
Linton apologized and made her Instagram account private after she faced backlash for lashing out over the original backlash. But the trip has come under new scrutiny thanks to revelations that it may not have been all about government business after all.
Just in: Louise Linton apologizes for Instagram post & response to commenter in statement –> pic.twitter.com/Ww22HFQuni
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) August 22, 2017
Questions about the purpose of the trip were raised by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) soon after Linton posted the photo. Was the trip planned so the couple could get a view of the eclipse while flying?
As it turns out, Linton and Mnuchin weren’t using the plane to see the eclipse—at least, not in midair. According to a Facebook post from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Mnuchin watched the eclipse with the senator from the roof of Fort Knox, an Army post that houses much of the country’s gold.
The senator posted a picture of the two men at Fort Knox, in which McConnell is holding eclipse classes. It was captioned, “The U.S. Department of the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and I in front of the main door to the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox before we viewed the #solareclipse today.”
Mnuchin was reportedly at Fort Knox for a luncheon with the local Chamber of Commerce originally scheduled for earlier in August, and according to The Washington Post, he watched Monday’s eclipse from the roof.
Treasury officials told The Washington Post that the luncheon was not a cover for seeing the near-total eclipse, and that the luncheon was rescheduled for later in the month because McConnell had delayed the Senate recess.
A spokesperson for McConnell also told the Post that seeing the eclipse was just an added bonus of the Fort Knox trip, but added, “Kentucky was the best place to see it, hands down.”
Mnuchin also posted on social media about the trip, tweeting, “Thanks to @usmint staff for hosting at #FortKnox #USBD. First @USTreasury Secretary to visit since John Snyder in 1948. Glad gold is safe!”
— Steven Mnuchin (@stevenmnuchin1) August 21, 2017
Even if Linton and Mnuchin’s use of the plane had nothing to do with seeing the near-total eclipse from the roof of Fort Knox, the trip raises questions, as the spouses of cabinet members have not historically traveled on government planes for domestic trips.
A spokesperson for Mnuchin told reporters the couple reimbursed the government for the costs of their travel.