Officials with the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration spent months deliberating on how to respond to a FOIA request for records related to Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s use of government aircraft, Fox News reported.
According to emails obtained by Fox News, the FOIA office with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) consulted with a spokesman for the Transporation Secretary and the FAA’s Flight Program Operations office while processing a FOIA request from Fox News about Buttigieg’s 18 flights aboard government jets.
In one email, Flight Program Operations Vice President David Wil Riggins suggested altering how the costs for the flights are determined to avoid sharing the information with Fox.
Riggins also contacted Transportation spokesman Benjamin Halle and FAA Assistant Administrator for Communication Matthew Lehner to set up a phone meeting to discuss the Fox FOIA request.
In late January, when the manager of the FAA’s FOIA office notified officials that the records requested by Fox had been compiled, Riggins delayed signing off on the request for nearly a month. The records, minus the costs, were finally shared with Fox on February 27 just minutes before the Washington Post published a report on the Transporation Department Inspector General opening a probe into Buttigieg’s flights.
The FAA’s FOIA office refused to say why the costs of the flights were omitted from the records provided to Fox News.
Since becoming Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg has taken trips on FAA planes to Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Ohio. Last September, Buttigieg traveled to an International Civil Aviation Organization conference in Montreal aboard an FAA plane.
Additionally, five of Buttigieg’s senior advisors have also traveled on government planes rather than flying commercial.
Analysis by the Washington Post of similar flights by former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao estimates that Secretary Buttigieg’s penchant for flying on government jets likely costs taxpayers $5,000 per hour.