About a half-dozen members of President Trump’s Cabinet, past and present, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on charter jets, military planes and other government aircraft for travel that often could have been undertaken much less expensively on commercial aircraft.
One of those Cabinet members, Tom Price, resigned as secretary of health and human services a week ago as revelations about his travel, uncovered by reporters at Politico, mounted. The focus on Price, though, tended to overwhelm stories about the excessive spending on travel by his former colleagues, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
Price’s travel is estimated to have cost at least a million dollars; Mnuchin’s was close to that. Using data from news reports and an inspector general’s report from the Treasury Department, we recorded 71 separate flights from these six Cabinet members. Those flights are below.
Price is the poster child for this travel for two reasons. First, his flights were charter flights, private jets that the Department of Health and Human Services arranged for him. Politico’s Rachana Pradhan and Dan Diamond staked out Dulles Airport to determine when Price was using charter jets, eventually uncovering at least 26 flights.
Cost estimates from Politico.
Those included several multiday jaunts. Several were to Maine and New Hampshire; another was to Colorado and Illinois. The longest trip was from Washington to San Diego to Aspen, Colo., and then on to Utah and Texas. The San Diego-to-Aspen leg alone, Politico reported, cost more than $7,000.
Mnuchin’s travel on military aircraft was less frequent — but much more expensive. The inspector general’s report on his travel counted seven distinct trips, totaling 17 different flights. Two were overseas, both to Europe. (A third European trip, for his honeymoon, was rejected.) Mnuchin also flew out west, arguing that a military plane was required in case he needed to make a secure phone call en route.
His most infamous trip was to Kentucky on the day of the solar eclipse in August. That trip cost about $26,900, according to the IG.
Cost estimates from the Treasury inspector general.
Chao’s flights generally used aircraft owned by the government for her travel, thanks to a fleet owned by the Federal Aviation Administration that the FAA leases out to other agencies for about $5,000 an hour, according to The Post’s Drew Harwell and Michael Laris. The lengthiest trip was to France and Sardinia in August.
Other Cabinet members were less likely to use charter and military flights (at least as far as has been reported). Zinke and Pruitt were the most enthusiastic, each repeatedly taking such flights back to their home states of Montana and Oklahoma, respectively. Zinke also took a military flight from Washington to Norway and then to Alaska in May.
He also chartered two flights to and from St. Croix and St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands while there in March, according to Politico.
Rick Perry wins the worst-timing award. His charter flight, from an airport in Pennsylvania to one in Ohio, could easily have been replicated by commercial flights.
What makes it remarkable, though, was the date: Sept. 28 — the day before Price resigned because of his habit of taking charter flights.