Trump’s health czar resigns over pricey charter flights
HIGH-FLYING Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is hitting the highway after mounting questions arose about his use of private jets.
The former Georgia congressman and physician was under investigation for using charter planes instead of cheaper commercial options, a practice that has cost taxpayers a reported $1 million since May.
Trump, who had voiced his displeasure with the negative attention his Cabinet member received, called Price a “very fine man” earlier Friday, but the White House announced hours later that the secretary had resigned.
“I have spent 40 years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first. I regret that recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives,” Price said in his resignation letter, adding the department had been “working to reform a broken health care system.”
He will be temporarily replaced by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Don J. Wright.
The outgoing secretary — and former budget hawk — had tried to save his skin this week by announcing he’d reimburse the feds $52,000 for part of his trips and promising to stop using chartered flights all together.
Federal employees are instructed to fly commercial unless absolutely necessary, and Price’s penchant for private travel was a departure from previous secretaries.
News of his flight habits began trickling out in the last two weeks, as others in the administration such as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin had faced criticism for their own charter flights after Trump had promised to “drain the swamp” of Washington elitism.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney released a memo Friday evening offering renewed guidance on the travel policy and saying “just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.”
He added that, with some exceptions, top federal employees should now ask for approval from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly before taking government-owned and chartered
flights. Price’s trips under scrutiny included short flights to Philadelphia and a vacation island in Georgia as well as faroff ones to Europe, Africa and Asia. His overseas ventures, using military planes approved by the White House and with his wife by his side, cost taxpayers $500,000, Politico reported. Reports of his private-jet use seemed to have irked President Trump, who told reporters Wednesday that he was “not happy.” When asked if his secretary could pay the price with his job, Trump simply said, “We’ll see,” a line he repeated again Friday before the departure.
Trump had told reporters a decision on Price’s fate would be made Friday night. He apparently resigned after Trump’s comments.
Trump’s administration has been marked by an incredible amount of turnover.
During his nine months in office, chief strategist Steve Bannon, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and special adviser Sebastian Gorka — among others — have either resigned or been fired.
Price had insisted Thursday he had Trump’s confidence to stay on the job.
But beyond his flights, Price’s tenure was marred by botched efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
At a speech to Boy Scouts in July, the President threatened to tell Price ‘you’re fired’ if he did not get legislation passed.
HHS Secretary Tom Price stepped down after running up a reported $1 million in airplane bills since May.
Tom Price’s tenure as Health and Human Services director has come to an unceremonious end.