DNC says it will pay for first lady Jill Biden’s Delaware-Paris flights

The Democratic National Committee said Monday that it plans to reimburse the federal government for first lady Jill Biden’s flights to and from Paris to attend the federal trial of her son, Hunter Biden, but ultimately taxpayers will shoulder most of the costs.

A DNC spokeswoman confirmed to CBS News that the national party plans to pay “for the first class travel of the first lady.” The move is similar to how the DNC and the Biden reelection campaign split the costs of flights for President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses when they fly on government aircraft to a mix of official and political events. 

The White House Military Office determines the reimbursement rates using Pentagon-issued cost estimates. First ladies typically fly on smaller Boeing jets than the traditional 747 model used for presidential travel. The reimbursement rate for the flights the first lady took could run at least $15,000, based on the Pentagon tabulations. 

And while the DNC plans to reimburse the federal government for the first lady’s seats on the flights, most of the costs related to the Air Force flight crew and to ferry Secret Service agents and any support staff are ultimately paid for by taxpayers. Those costs are likely to run into the six figures depending on the aircraft used and the number of personnel onboard —details the Pentagon doesn’t normally disclose. 

The Daily Mail first reported the reimbursement plans earlier Monday, and quoted the first lady’s office as saying, “In accordance with relevant regulations utilized across administrations, the government is reimbursed the value of a first-class fare for these flights to Wilmington and back to Paris.”

Multiple attempts to obtain the same statement from the first lady’s office went unanswered Monday and the Biden reelection campaign referred CBS News to the DNC for comment. 

It is standard practice for the DNC and Republican National Committee to reimburse for government-paid flights to political events —but last week’s itinerary for the first lady was especially notable given the international destination. 

She attended the first day of jury selection last week and then spent roughly 24 hours over three days flying to France, attending D-Day commemoration ceremonies in Normandy, then back to her family’s hometown to sit in the Wilmington federal courthouse Friday to watch granddaughter Naomi Biden testify. The first lady was back in Paris by 6 a.m. local time Saturday to attend a full day of events, including a welcome ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, a tour of Louis Vuitton Foundation museum’s art collection and a state dinner at the Élysée Palace.  

First ladies do not have the option of flying commercial given security concerns and always travel with a full Secret Service detail.

David Martin contributed to this report. 

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