The day before Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned over his colossal overuse of private planes, Energy Secretary Rick Perry—who has never been the most graceful of public officials—reportedly took a chartered jet to visit a uranium facility in Ohio. This is just the latest in a cascade of stories about Trump administration officials flying private like they are members of a red-hot boy band, which really begs the question: did someone—say, an orange-headed guy who doesn’t know how anything works—tell them they could do that?
Just to recap, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is currently under investigation by the department’s Office of Inspector General following reports that he took a $12,375 chartered flight from Las Vegas to an airport near his home in Montana, while Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has “no regrets” over his unusual decision to fly private to view the solar eclipse and meet with business leaders in Kentucky; he withdrew a request this summer to use a government jet for his honeymoon. Mnuchin is also under scrutiny following reports that a hedge fund billionaire flew his chief of staff on a private jet to Palm Beach. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has taken charter and military planes that cost taxpayers $58,000, including a $14,434.50 flight to a small town in his home state of Oklahoma, which is a place that seems to get a lot of his attention. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who is worth $1.25 billion, also acknowledged taking a private plane on government business, but says that she doesn’t bill the government.
Although some private and military travel is not unusual for members of the executive branch, depending on the trip in question and their Cabinet position, Trump’s personal cadre of autocratic pirates and sweaty hustlers seems extraordinarily comfortable billing taxpayers thousands of dollars so they can travel in luxury.
This could, of course, just be a natural symptom of packing one’s Cabinet with absurdly wealthy people of limited intelligence who are used to the good life. Maybe they thought that if they could get away with systematically dismantling their own departments, they could get away with a little private plane use—and honestly, not a terrible bet! I’m still surprised that this plane story is getting so much traction! But I’m also comfortable speculating that Trump, who says wildly incorrect things nearly all the time and is known to enjoy a good brag, gave his subordinates offhand permission to live like kings. Which would certainly be funny, hypothetically, and also example number 376948 of the president brutally fucking over everyone around him.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.