it’s a swamp thing
Chief of staff to oversee Cabinet travel after health secretary resigns amid private plane scandal
The White House is ordering administration staffers to get approval from Chief of Staff John Kelly before hopping aboard a government flight or chartered plane to clamp down on the kind of pricey jet-setting that led to the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney told agency heads of the new guidance yesterday in a memo that warned: “Departments and agencies should recognize that we are public servants. Every penny we spend comes from the taxpayer.
“We thus owe it to the taxpayer to work as hard managing that money wisely as the taxpayer must do to earn it in the first place,” Mulvaney wrote.
Trump said yesterday he was “disappointed” with Price’s taxpayer-funded trips on private chartered jets, saying he didn’t “like the optics” of the spending.
“I was disappointed,” Trump told reporters. “And you know this is an administration that saves hundreds of millions of dollars on renegotiating things.”
Price took 26 private chartered flights costing $400,000 and used military aircraft for multistop trips to Africa, Europe and Asia that cost more than $500,000, Politico reported.
In his resignation letter, Price said, “I regret that the recent events have created a distraction” from the government’s work on health care.
Trump’s former campaign co-chairman in Massachusetts, Geoff Diehl, a state rep running for U.S. Senate, said pushing Price out was a “smart move.”
“(Trump) always preached on the campaign trail accountability in Washington,” he said. “It certainly proves he’s willing to hold anyone and everyone accountable.”
The revelations of Price’s travel highlights the need for more transparency on travel spending, according to Leslie Paige of Citizens Against Government Waste.
“Mr. Price’s situation should be a cautionary tale for others,” Paige said. “But if we really wanted to clamp down on abuses the first thing we should do is get some sunshine on this and some information about what the process is.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, meanwhile, is dismissing controversy over his use of charter flights as “a little BS over travel,” but says the American public has the right to know the costs of official trips.
Zinke yesterday disclosed that he has taken three charter flights since taking office in March, including a $12,375 late-night trip in June from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana. Before a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation yesterday, Zinke said: “Taxpayers absolutely have the right to know official travel costs. It’s common sense ... and the heart of good government.”
HIGH FLYER: Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, seen Thursday at a White House event, resigned yesterday after racking up a million-dollar tab for charter and military flights this year.