Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides have flown to events in Montana and the Caribbean islands on military and charter planes, joining several other Trump administration Cabinet officials who’ve taken non-commercial flights to conduct official business, Politico reported Thursday night.
Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift told Politico that Zinke and his staff only booked government or private planes after they were unable to find commercial flights to accommodate the secretary’s schedule.
The report on Zinke’s travel comes after the revelation that several other Cabinet officials have used government and private planes for trips to locales accessible by commercial flights. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has taken the most heat for spending more than $400,000 on private plane trips up and down the East Coast. Price plans to pay back the federal government less than $52,000 for his seats on the flights, not for the total cost of the trips. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has also flown on private and government planes, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is under investigation for using a government plane on a trip to Kentucky.
The trips on non-commercial flights have prompted the House Oversight Committee to launch a probe into administration officials’ use of those flights.
Zinke flew a private plane from Las Vegas, where he was speaking at an event for a hockey team and attending an event related to public lands, to the Glacier Park International Airport, where he then stayed at his private residence, according to Politico. The flight cost taxpayers $12,375, Swift told Politico. In Montana, Zinke spoke at a Western Governors’ Association event. He returned to Washington, D.C., on a commercial flight, per Politico.
The secretary and his staff also took charter flights between St. Thomas and St. Croix for events marking the date the Danish government gave the islands to the U.S., Politico reported.
Zinke used a military plane in May to fly to Norway and then on to Alaska, where he attended events organized by the Senate Natural Resources Committee. He also flew on a military plane with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to Ravalli County, Montana, to view wildfires. A USDA spokesman told Politico that the two secretaries used the military plane in this instance due to “a very tight travel window, with no viable commercial airline options to transport two secretaries, security details, and associated USDA, Forest Service and Interior staff.”