Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) story about her secret trip to Florida aboard a private jet is changing again, according to a letter from her attorney.
After her four-day trip to Florida in March became public in April, Whitmer dodged questions about her full itinerary, who paid for the “personal” trip, and what, if anything, was offered in exchange for the private flight.
Whitmer’s office announced her affiliated 501(c)(4) organization, Michigan Transition 2019, would pay the $27,521 cost for the trip. She reimbursed the entity $855 for her seat, the estimated cost of a first-class ticket.
After the House Oversight Committee sent a list of questions to the governor’s office, attorney Christopher Trebilcock answered on behalf of Michigan Transition 2019 and Whitmer’s campaign committee, according to a letter obtained by Gongwer.
Trebilcock claimed “an aide to Governor Whitmer’s office” contacted PVS Chemicals — part owners of Air Eagle, LLC, which owns the plane — “to ask whether PVS had an aircraft that could fly her on a trip to Florida.”
A source told Breitbart News that aide was Whitmer’s chief of staff, Joanne Huls.
Trebilcock asserted the purpose of the private plane was for Whitmer’s security. Critics allege is it because Whitmer did not want to be seen traveling to Florida in a public airport during a time in which she urged Michigan residents not to.
Four days after the request was made to PVS, Whitmer flew to West Palm Beach the morning of Friday, March 12, and returned the evening of Monday, March 15. Trebilcock claimed it was “a two-day weekend trip to visit her ailing father, with a travel day on each side of the visit.”
The attorney said Whitmer was alone on the flight there, along with her “security detail” and flight crew. On the return trip, Whitmer’s daughters traveled with her. They, the letter said, had been in Florida for weeks tending to their grandfather’s needs. They were not yet eligible for a coronavirus vaccination at that time.
According to Trebilcock’s letter, the 501(c)(4) is no longer paying for the trip. Instead, Whitmer’s campaign committee will:
Notwithstanding that the payment of the trip was a proper expense of Michigan Transition 2019 under tax and nonprofit law, legal counsel for PVS advised Michigan Transition 2019 on May 17 that because of PVS’ status as a Part 91 operator, FAA rules do not allow the operator to accept any flight reimbursements except from a candidate campaign committee. Based on this new understanding, the cost of the flight will now be paid from the Whitmer for Governor campaign fund consistent with FAA rules. Although not required by law, the Governor is also voluntarily reimbursing the Whitmer for Governor candidate committee for an amount equivalent to the cost of a first-class commercial airline ticket for herself and her daughters.
The letter argued the payment was permissible because it was “paid or incurred in carrying out the business of an elective office.”
Whitmer’s stated activity was that she did “a lot of cooking and a lot of cleaning” while she was in Florida. She did not state any purpose pursuant to her elected duties.
It is not clear why Whitmer initially only paid for her own seat and not those of her daughters as she is doing now.
Trebilcock revealed Whitmer also flew on a private jet to attend President Joe Biden’s inauguration, where she was a co-chair of the event. The governor’s campaign committee paid $22,670 to Solomon Plumbing Co. for the use of its plane on January 19 and January 21.
The change in entity paying for the flights now changes the regulatory agency. A complaint had been filed with IRS against Michigan Transition 2019, as it oversees 501(c)(4) organizations. But state campaign committees are regulated by the Michigan Secretary of State — in this case, Whitmer’s fellow Democrat, Jocelyn Benson.
Oversight Committee chairman state Rep. Steve Johnson (R) told Breitbart News he is reviewing the responses in Trebilcock’s letter.
“There are still unanswered questions but we are glad the governor finally admitted to wrongdoing,” Johnson said.
He previously said he would consider holding a hearing on the scandal.