Trump’s health secretary quits over use of taxpayer-funded jets

Tom Price took $25,000 flight for east-coast trip that costs $100 by train

Tom Price: his resignation is the latest high-level departure from the Trump administration. Photograph: Getty

Tom Price: his resignation is the latest high-level departure from the Trump administration. Photograph: Getty

 

Tom Price, the US health and human services secretary, has resigned from the Trump administration under mounting pressure over his use of government-funded jets for work and personal business.

The White House confirmed on Friday that Mr Price had offered his resignation to Mr Trump, and the US president had accepted it. Don Wright, currently the deputy assistant secretary for health, will become acting health secretary.

The development came less than an hour after Mr Trump told reporters as he left the White House for his golf club in New Jersey for the weekend that he would make a decision on Mr Price’s future that night. Although he described Mr Price as a “very fine man” he added: “I don’t like the optics.”

Mr Trump indicated his displeasure with Mr Price earlier in the week. On Wednesday he said he was “looking into” the situation, adding: “Personally, I’m not happy about it, and I let him know it.”

Mr Price said on Thursday that he would reimburse some of the taxpayers’ money, following widespread outrage that he used chartered flights when commercial flights and trains were available at a fraction of the price.

Last weekend his former department’s inspector general announced an investigation into Mr Price’s use of chartered flights. In particular, it was revealed that Mr Price chartered a $25,000 flight from Washington Dulles airport to Philadelphia, when a round-trip train ticket was available for less than $100.

High-level departures

Mr Price’s resignation is the latest high-level departure from the Trump administration. Mr Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Preibus and press secretary Sean Spicer all left the White House over the summer.

Controversy also surrounded the use by the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, of a government flight to travel to Kentucky, together with his wife, earlier this year.

The oversight and government reform committee of the US House of Representatives has also requested records from the White House over the use of government planes for personal use. Mr Price, a doctor who served in Congress as representative for Georgia from 2005 to 2017, was appointed by Mr Trump in January.

As health secretary he was the leading White House official tasked with repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a policy priority that ultimately failed, with the latest Republican plan to replace Obamacare collapsing earlier this week.

Mr Trump is meanwhile ramping up his search for a new chief for the US central bank, meeting with the former Federal Reserve governor Kevin Warsh and three others and promising a decision next month. “I’ve had four meetings for Fed chairman and I’ll be making a decision over the next two or three weeks,” Mr Trump said on Friday.