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Gov't watchdog group requests records on Mnuchin, wife's 'Instagram' trip

Posted at 9:45 AM, Aug 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-25 09:45:42-04

(CNN) - Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's wife Louise Linton apologized Tuesday after sustained backlash for a now-deleted Instagram post touting her wealth and her subsequent reply belittling a commenter.

Monday's post began with a glamorous photo of Linton stepping off an official government plane on a trip to Kentucky with her husband, who was there to discuss tax reform with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and visit Fort Knox.

But now there are more questions, namely whether the whole trip was a ruse to get a good view of the solar eclipse.

"I will be only the third secretary of the Treasury that's actually gone inside Fort Knox," Mnuchin said.

This was the first solar eclipse in a contiguous path since 1979, and Fort Knox had 97 percent totality. Mnuchin and Linton's trip is being investigated by the government watchdog group Citizens for the Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which requesting all records concerning that plane ride.

The group suggests a government plane was used for a trip that quote "seems to have been planned around the solar eclipse...to enable the secretary to secure a viewpoint in the path of the eclipse's totality."

An Instagram post from McConnell's press team, showing the two men, "At Fort Knox before viewing the #solareclipse from the rooftop." McConnell can be seen with special viewing glasses in his hand.

The watchdog group is digging to find out how often Mnuchin has used "government planes for travel in lieu of commercial planes, and the justification for that use."

This marks the second time this week that Mnuchin and his wife are taking heat for this very trip.

Upon landing in Kentucky, Linton posted the now-viral photo on Instagram, flaunting her wealth and tagging a series of luxury designers. That led to an Instagram spat with Jenni Miller, an Oregon mom who was offended by Linton's post, writing in response, "Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable."

"Just seemed ridiculous and quite frankly offended me as someone who paid for part of their trip," Miller told CNN.

Instead of letting it go, Linton ripped into Miller with a long condescending rant, calling her "adorably out of touch and suggesting she "go chill out and watch the new Game of Thrones."

"There are probably better ways to spend her time and money than trying to make me feel bad about my simple cute life," Miller said.

Linton, a former actress from Scotland, has long touted her wealth and hollywood lifestyle. Of all things, she once played Marie Antoinette in a costume party scene on an episode of "CSI."

Linton, who has since changed her Instagram page setting to private, later apologized.

In a statement, she said, "I apologize for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response. It was inappropriate and highly insensitive."

A spokesperson for the Treasury Department said the trip was official business to discuss tax reform, and that later in the day the majority leader, the treasury secretary, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and a few others visited the goal depository in Fort Knox.

They said it was first planned for August but postponed to accommodate the congressional calendar. There was no mention in the Treasury Department's statement of the eclipse viewing.

Also, Treasury said Mnuchin is reimbursing the government for his wife's travel, which is a long-standing policy when civilians travel on military aircraft.

Copyright 2017 CNN. WAVE, Getty Images and CBS contributed to the report. All rights reserved.