Mnuchin says he has no regrets over government plane use

WASHINGTON, Oct 1 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday he does not regret using a government plane to travel to Kentucky in August with his wife to view the solar eclipse and speak to business leaders, calling it "completely justifiable."

Mnuchin's use of the plane at taxpayers' expense prompted an outcry from Democratic lawmakers and interest groups and spurred a government watchdog to begin examining whether it violated travel or ethics policies.

SEE ALSO: Mnuchin: Can't guarantee tax cut for entire middle class

"It was approved by the White House and there were reasons why we needed to use that plane that are completely justifiable," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.

Cabinet members rarely use government planes or chartered aircraft for domestic travel, but the practice has received significant attention in the wake of Mnuchin's trip. On Friday, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned after an outcry over his use of private charter planes for government business at a cost of nearly $52,000.

26 PHOTOS
Louise Linton through the years
See Gallery
Louise Linton through the years
Steven Mnuchin (L) and his financee Louise Linton watch as US President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as the next treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on February 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
From left: US President Donald Trump, Steven Mnuchin, his financee Louise Linton, and US Vice President Mike Pence take their positions for Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as the next US Treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on February 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 18: (L) Louise Linton and (R) Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin walk on Capital Hill to testify at a Senate Banking Committee and International Policy hearing on Capital Hill May 18, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mnuchin spoke before the committee that oversees bank regulations in his first congressional testimony since being named as Treasury secretary. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - JUNE 15: Producer/actress Louise Linton attends the premiere of IFC Midnight's 'Intruder' at Regency Bruin Theater on June 15, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton attends 2016 Library Lions Gala at New York Public Library - Stephen A Schwartzman Building on November 7, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jimi Celeste/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton attends 2016 Library Lions Gala at New York Public Library - Stephen A Schwartzman Building on November 7, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jimi Celeste/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Scottish actress Louise Linton (C), the partner of Steven Mnuchin, looks on as he testifies before Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 19, 2017, on his nomination to be Secretary of the Treasury in the Trump administration. / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 02: Actress Louise Linton arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Jupiter Ascending' at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 2, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 02: Actress Louise Linton arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Jupiter Ascending' at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 2, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JULY 16: Louise Linton attends GREY GOOSE Le Martini et Vous evening at Devil�s Advocate on July 16, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Martin Grimes/Getty Images for Grey Goose)
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JULY 16: Louise Linton attends GREY GOOSE Le Martini et Vous evening at Devil�s Advocate on July 16, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Martin Grimes/Getty Images for Grey Goose)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JUNE 11: Louise Linton arrives to Pathway To The Cures For Breast Cancer Fundraiser at Santa Monica Airport on June 11, 2014 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
SANTA MONICA, CA - JUNE 11: Louise Linton arrives to Pathway To The Cures For Breast Cancer Fundraiser at Santa Monica Airport on June 11, 2014 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Louise Linton attends the 'Foxcatcher' premiere during the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2014 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Gisela Schober/Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Louise Linton attends the 'Foxcatcher' premiere during the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 19, 2014 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 11: Louise Linton attends the Scottish Fashion Awards 2012, Scotland's most high-profile celebration of fashion and style which recognises scottish designers who have made a significant contribution to the industry at The Clyde Auditorium on June 11, 2012 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Martin Grimes/WireImage)
GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 11: Louise Linton attends Scotland's most high-profile celebration of fashion and style which recognises scottish designers who have made a significant contribution to the industry at The Clyde Auditorium on June 11, 2012 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Sandy Young/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 05: Actress Louise Linton arrives at the 'She Wants Me' Los Angeles premiere at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 on April 5, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 08: Actress es Louise Linton, Kristin Ruhlin and Tenille Houston celebrate the DVD release of the movie 'She Wants Me' at Tabu Ultra Lounge at MGM Grand on September 8, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 05: Actress Louise Linton arrives at the 'She Wants Me' Los Angeles premiere at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 on April 5, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 08: Actress Louise Linton celebrates the DVD release of the movie 'She Wants Me' at Tabu Ultra Lounge at MGM Grand on September 8, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 21: Actress Louise Linton attends the Night Of 'BB Forever: Brigitte Bardot, The Legend' at Sofitel Hotel on February 21, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Kohen/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 21: Actress Louise Linton attends the Night Of 'BB Forever: Brigitte Bardot, The Legend' at Sofitel Hotel on February 21, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Kohen/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 15: Louise Linton arrives at the Scottish Fashion Awards at Glasgow Science Centre on June 15, 2011 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Martin Grimes/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 15: Louise Linton arrives at the Scottish Fashion Awards at Glasgow Science Centre on June 15, 2011 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Martin Grimes/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Mnuchin told NBC that he would only use a private plane for government purposes "if either there was a national security issue or we couldn't get somewhere."

The Treasury Department has described Mnuchin's trip in August as official government travel. Mnuchin spoke to business leaders in Louisville and visited Fort Knox, the site of significant U.S. gold reserves.

Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton, also viewed the Aug. 21 solar eclipse in Kentucky with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others.

13 PHOTOS
Inside Steve Mnuchin's wedding and relationship with Louise Linton
See Gallery
Inside Steve Mnuchin's wedding and relationship with Louise Linton
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: (Exclusive Coverage) (L-R) First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Louise Linton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Second Lady Karen Pence pose at the wedding of Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton on June 24, 2017 at Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC. Louise Linton is wearing a custom Ines Di Santo gown with wedding ring and earrings by Martin Katz. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for LS)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: United States President Donald J. Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington, DC on June 24, 2017. The Trumps left to attend the wedding of US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton. The first lady is wearing a Gilles Mendel silk chiffon gown with Manolo Blahnik pumps. ( Photo by Ron Sachs-pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: United States President Donald J. Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington, DC on June 24, 2017. The Trumps left to attend the wedding of US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton. The first lady is wearing a Gilles Mendel silk chiffon gown with Manolo Blahnik pumps. ( Photo by Ron Sachs-pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: United States President Donald J. Trump and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House in Washington, DC on June 24, 2017. The Trumps left to attend the wedding of US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton. The first lady is wearing a Gilles Mendel silk chiffon gown with Manolo Blahnik pumps. ( Photo by Ron Sachs-pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 24: (Exclusive Coverage) Vice President Mike Pence (C) officiates the wedding of Louise Linton (L) and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin (R) on June 24, 2017 at Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC. Louise Linton is wearing a custom Ines Di Santo gown with wedding ring and earrings by Martin Katz. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for LS)
UNITED STATES - MAY 18: Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin testifies, as his fiancee Louise Linton looks on, during a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Dirksen Building titled Domestic and International Policy Update, on May 18, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Steven Mnuchin (L) and his financee Louise Linton watch as US President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as the next treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on February 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) watches as US Vice President Mike Pence (out of frame) administers the oath of office to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (2nd L) watched by Mnuchin's fiancee Louise Linton in the Oval Office of the White House on February 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Treasury Secretary nominee Stephen Mnuchin and fiancee Louise Linton arrive for the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. Donald J. Trump became the 45th president of the United States today. (Photo by Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 07: Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton attend the 2016 Library Lions Gala at New York Public Library - Stephen A Schwartzman Building on November 7, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 19: Louise Linton, fianc� of Steven Mnuchin, right, President-elect Trump's nominee for Treasury secretary, attends his Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building, January 19, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Louise Linton smiles as her fianc�Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary nominee for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, not pictured, speaks during a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. Mnuchin defended his record as an owner of a mortgage lender that was accused of unfair loan and foreclosure practices during the financial crisis. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Public uproar over the trip began to mount after Linton posted a photo of herself deboarding the plane on social media and listed the expensive designer brands she was wearing in the caption. (Reporting by Julia Harte; Editing by Paul Simao)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.