So many Trump-era political controversies are so unusual, we lack frames of reference and historical parallels. When a foreign adversary launches an espionage operation against our democracy to help elect its preferred presidential candidate, and they may have had American confederates colluding with the attackers, it’s the kind of scandal that defies easy comparison.
On the other hand, cabinet secretaries avoiding commercial air travel is refreshingly simple. The Washington Post has the latest example for a growing list.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke chartered a flight from Las Vegas to near his home in Montana this summer aboard a plane owned by oil-and-gas executives, internal documents show.
The flight, along with private flights during a trip to the Virgin Islands, could propel Zinke into the growing debate over the costs of travel by Cabinet secretaries, some of whom have chosen expensive charter jets and military planes at high expense to taxpayers over the cheaper option of flying commercial.
According to the Post’s report, the flight cost taxpayers $12,375. Complicating matters, Donald Trump’s Interior secretary didn’t just charter a private flight; he flew aboard “a private plane owned by the executives of a Wyoming oil-and-gas exploration firm.”
And in case this isn’t obvious, oil-and-gas exploration firms are generally eager to make friends with the Department of the Interior.
But what makes this especially amazing is the broader pattern:a brewing scandal related to his private flights.
* Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s travel is already under investigation.
* And this week, we learned that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spent nearly $60,000 “on four military and private flights between February and August.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) would like to see Team Trump crack down on non-commercial flights. That would apparently require a rather dramatic shift.