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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin makes surprise appearance at Paris fashion week

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin made a surprise appearance at a fashion week hosted by a celebrity clothing designer in Paris on Wednesday as part of what the Treasury Department said is a multiday work trip to Europe.

The first notice the press got of Mnuchin‘s trip came when a fashion critic tweeted out a picture of the treasury secretary at a party thrown by clothing designer Diane von Furstenberg.

Mnuchin’s trip was not included in the normal notice of Treasury officials’ appearances that appears every Friday, despite the fact that the notice now reflects that he has meetings planned with top French officials, including French President Emmanuel Macron. A Treasury spokesperson said public notices were updated on Tuesday; the public notice website says it was last updated at 8:11 p.m. Tuesday night, and the department made no other effort to alert press to the change. Multiple spokespeople for the department gave no reason for the last-minute schedule update or lack of publicity around it, nor did they respond to whether Treasury had failed to disclose previous official travel by Mnuchin.

The Treasury Department now says the trip will include a meeting with the French finance minister as well as Macron before Mnuchin travels to London for a conference on investment in Jordan.

At the same time he was appearing in Paris, Mnuchin sent a letter to Congress asking for an increase in the debt ceiling, calling the full faith and credit of the United States a “critical” matter.

It’s not the first time Mnuchin has been opaque about his official travel plans.

Treasury’s internal inspector general investigated an official trip Mnuchin took with his wife, Louise Linton, to Fort Knox, Ky., during the rare full solar eclipse that coincided with the timing of his visit in August 2017. The military facility, which also hosts the United States gold bullion depository, was in the full eclipse path.

The department’s inspector general found nothing illegal about the trip, which cost taxpayers over $33,000, but criticized Mnuchin for his frequent use of government planes for travel. The department at first ignored efforts to release documents related to the trip under the Freedom of Information Act, until the Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit organization, sued to release them. Those records included a photo of Mnuchin and Linton viewing the eclipse through special glasses, despite Mnuchin’s previous public denials that he had any interest in watching the rare natural event.

Three months after the Fort Knox trip, Mnuchin drew heat again for an official visit with Linton in tow, this time to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where the two posted photos on social media with a freshly printed sheet of dollar bills.

A Treasury Department spokesperson declined to provide an on-record response as to whether Linton is accompanying Mnuchin on his current travel to Paris and London.

Asked about whether he thought Mnuchin what he made of the last-minute trip that coincided with a major social event, Sen. Chuck Grassley R-Iowa, chairman of the Finance Committee that oversees the Treasury Department, said he would not begrudge Mnuchin a vacation, but wasn’t certain if he should be traveling there on the taxpayer dime.

“Is he going there on taxpayer money or is he going over there on his own finance? You know, he has the capability of financing his own trips to Paris,” said Grassley. “But if it’s a playboy sort of thing then I’d find fault with it, but I don’t think he’s the sort of a playboy guy and I don’t think, with President Trump being his boss, he’s going to get away with being a playboy.”