Health and Human Services Secretary Price resigns amid criticism of his travel on private jets
The White House issued a statement Friday, which said that Trump accepted Price’s resignation and intends to designate acting assistant secretary for health Don Wright to serve as the acting secretary effective at 11:59 pm.
On Wednesday, Trump told reporters that he was “looking into” Price’s use of charter planes, adding that he was “not happy about it.” When asked if he would fire Price, Trump said: “We’ll see.”
Trump told reporters that he was going to make a decision on Price on Friday, adding that he was “disappointed” by the wasteful spending.
“I was disappointed because I didn't like it cosmetically or otherwise,” Trump said. “This is an administration that saves hundreds of millions of dollars on renegotiating things."
The total cost of Price’s overseas trips have cost taxpayers more than $1 million since May, according to Politico.
Price offered to write a personal check for $51.887.31 to the US Treasury to cover the cost of his seat on the flights he chartered.
“The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes,” Price said.
Price’s departure came after the Office of Inspector General (OIG) began a review of whether Price’s 26 charter flights were appropriate.
In a statement issued on Friday, Price said he will continue to cooperate with the OIG review and has taken additional steps to initiate a departmental review to “determine if any changes or reforms are necessary.”
“As I have previously stated, all of this travel was approved by legal and HHS officials,” Price said. “Despite this, I regret the concerns this has raised regarding the use of taxpayer dollars. All of my political career I’ve fought for the taxpayers. It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer. I know as well as anyone that the American people want to know that their hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely by government officials.”
Price added that he will write a personal check to the US Treasury “for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes.”
The HHS policy manual states that “Travel must be most advantageous to the Government, when cost and other factors are considered.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for senior Trump officials to stop taking private flights until the OIG completes their review.
On Thursday, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote a letter to Trump, asking that Price’s promise to stop taking charter trips until the OIG review is completed “should be copied government-wide.”
I've long held @SecPriceMD wasn't fit for office, the only question now is whether he should be allowed to take taxpayers for hundreds of thousands of dollars on his way out the door.— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) September 28, 2017
Other members of the Trump administration have also come under fire for their use of private jets, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who Politico reported had paid $12,000 for a charter flight to attend events in his hometown.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have also reportedly taken private flights at taxpayer expense.