Interior secretary chartered flights at taxpayer’s expense, including $12K trip

Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is the latest member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to come under scrutiny for flying chartered and military aircraft at tax payers’ expense.

According to Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift, Zinke has chartered three flights since March, including a June 26 flight from Las Vegas to Kalispell, Montana, which incurred a cost of $12,375.

Another chartered flight shuttled Zinke between the Caribbean islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas for the U.S. Virgin Islands Centennial Transfer Day Ceremony.

Politico was first to report on the chartered flights.

The Associated Press
FILE – In this July 30, 2017 file photo, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks during a news conference near Gold Butte National Monument in Bunkerville, Nev. Zinke appears to be carving out an exception for his home state from the Trump administ

In a statement, Swift said “the Secretary traveled on charter flights when there were no commercial options available,” adding that the department’s ethics office approves all travel in advance of booking.

Zinke also shared a military aircraft with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to attend a briefing at a wildfire camp in Montana, Swift said.

A USDA spokesperson told Politico, “The military plane was used because of 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 to Missoula in the time required.”

This week, as reports of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s proclivity for chartering pricey private flights made headlines, Trump expressed growing frustration and said he’s “not happy about it” on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Price vowed to reimburse taxpayers for the cost of his seat on chartered flights to the tune of $51,887.31.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator

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