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You’re fired! Trump axes HHS Secretary Tom Price for spending $1 MILLION of taxpayers’ money on flights aboard private jets and military planes since January
September 30, 2017 - Written by Faysal Aadan

  • Health secretary Tom Price was under fire for taking government jet flights now totaling $1 million
  • The White House released a statement Friday saying he had resigned 
  • He took more than $400,000 worth of Domestic flights
  • Price also took military jet flights to Europe and Asia costing $500,000
  • President Donald Trump called Price a ‘fine man’ on Friday 
  • The president said he didn’t like the ‘optics’ 
  • Price announced Thursday he would he would personally reimburse the government $52,000 for the costs of his seats
  • HHS inspector general and internal agency review are underway
  • Visits to Berlin, Geneva, Liberia, Beijing, Tokyo, Vietnam with his wife  
  • President Trump said he was ‘not happy’ with the situation 

Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price resigned his post Friday after a constant drip of revelations about his costly trips aboard government jets – and the president’s frank admission that he didn’t like the ‘optics.’

The White House revealed his departure Friday afternoon, just hours after Trump had called him a ‘fine man’ but failed to provide a reassurance he could keep his job.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement saying: ‘Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price offered his resignation earlier today and the President accepted.’

Earlier, Trump said he would make a decision tonight on the fate of the embattled Health and Human Services Secretary, whose flights on government jets have cost taxpayers more than $1 million and brought a week of bad PR to the administration.

President Donald Trump called HHS Secretary Tom Price a 'very fine man' and said he would make a decision on his status tonight

President Donald Trump called HHS Secretary Tom Price a ‘very fine man’ and said he would make a decision on his status tonight

Stepping in on an acting basis will be Don J. Wright of Virginia, whose designation takes effect just before midnight.

‘Mr. Wright currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion,’ Sanders said.

Trump got asked about Price on Friday, following revelations of his domestic and international travel aboard military and government-owned jets.

Although the president praised Price’s personal character, he did not hide his displeasure.

‘He’s a very fine man,’ Trump responded in the early afternoon comments. ‘But we’re going to make a decision some time tonight.’ Then Trump added: ‘He’s a very, very fine man.’

THIS MIGHT HURT A BIT: Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price  (L) receives a flu shot administered by registered nurse Sharon Walsh-Bonadies (R) during an event on the importance of annual influenza prevention, at the National Press Club

THIS MIGHT HURT A BIT: Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price (L) receives a flu shot administered by registered nurse Sharon Walsh-Bonadies (R) during an event on the importance of annual influenza prevention, at the National Press Club

Shortly before Price’s time in the cabinet was done, Trump quipped: ‘We have great secretaries and some that own their own planes, so that solves that.’

He added: ‘ We put in an order that no more planes – if you look at past administrations, for instance, if you look at the Obama administration and take a look at the amount of time they spent in the air, they spent a lot of time in the air. But I felt very badly bc Secretary Price is a good man. But we are looking into it and we are looking into it very seriously.’

'I certainly don't like the optics. I'm not happy,' Trump said of Price's trips aboard government aircraft

‘I certainly don’t like the optics. I’m not happy,’ Trump said of Price’s trips aboard government aircraft

The comments left Price dangling a bit longer, amid widespread predictions he wouldn’t last through the week.

TRUMP’S WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE

The Trump administration has lost a significant number of key players since the president took office in January:

Reince Priebus, chief of staff

Priebus left after six months on the job after President Trump became convinced that he wasn’t strong enough to run the White House operation. He was replaced by John Kelly, a retired U.S. Marine Corps general.

Tom Price, Health and Human Services secretary

Price was forced out in late September over his use of private jets and military aircraft that cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

Mike Flynn, national security advisor

Flynn was the first major character to be ousted, in February, after he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his 2016 contacts with Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

James Comey, FBI director

Trump fired Comey in early May, immediately drawing complaints of a ‘cover-up’ from Democrats who feared the move was designed to shield thw president from an investigation into his campaign’s alleged election-year collusion with Russia.

Sean Spicer, press secretary

An angry Spicer left at the six-month mark when Trump asked the combative spokesman to report to newly-appointed communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Anthony Scaramucci, communications director

‘The Mooch’ lasted 10 days in the West Wing and was ousted following an expletive-laden rant to a New Yorker reporter in which he trashed his colleagues. 

Sally Yates, acting attorney general

Yates, an Obama administration holdover, was fired 10 days into the Trump presidency after she refused to instruct the Justice Department to defend the president’s multi-nation travel ban in court.

Steve Bannon, chief strategist

Bannon found himself on the wrong side of Trump’s ego after months of generating a high profile in the press and picking public fights with the president’s economic and national security advisers, and left in August.

Sebastian Gorka, counterterrorism adviser

Gorka, a pugnacious Trump defender on television who didn’t have any significant policy responsibilities, was ousted shortly after Bannon’s departure made it clear that he had few defenders left in the West Wing.

Keith Schiller, director of Oval Office operations

Schiller, a longtime Trump bodyguard, departed in late September for greener pastures; his government salary represented a significant pay cut from his former Trump Organization earnings.

George Gigicos, director of scheduling and advance

Trump gave Gigicos the axe in August following a Phoenix rally where pre-event TV coverage showed a smaller-than-desired audience, and where the president’s green room was reportedly cramped and filthy.

Katie Walsh, deputy chief of staff

Walsh, a former chief of staff at the Republican National Committee, was forced out amid allegations that she repeatedly leaked information to the press. 

Michael Short, senior assistant press secretary

One of Scaramucci’s first – and few – acts as communications director was to fire Short, whom he believed was a serial leaker.

Mike Dubke, communications director

Dubke, a traditional political communicator who never meshed with Trump’s off-the-cuff style, quit in late May. 

Josh Pitcock, vice president’s chief of staff

Pitcock resigned voluntarily in late June without a hint of scandal after working for Mike Pence for a dozen years.

Marc Lotter, vice president’s press secretary 

Like Pitcock, Lotter’s departure wasn’t controversial. He had served as Pence’s spokesman during his re-election campaign for the Indiana governorship before moving to Washington.

Trump said he was displeased with the ‘optics’ of the situation – an acknowledgement of how the story has dragged on for a week, even undermining his campaign vow to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington – even while calling attention to his own costly travel to visit an array of Trump properties.

‘I certainly don’t like the optics. I’m not happy, I can tell you that. I’m not happy,’ Trump told reporters at the White House before taking off aboard Marine One for his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Trump called the situation a ‘shame’ – and seemed to indicate that he believed the criticism was misplaced because his own efforts to negotiate with executives had brought down the costs of massive government aircraft contracts.

‘I have a great cabinet,’ Trump told reporters. ‘We save hundreds of millions of dollars through negotiation. I’ll give you an example. With the F-35 fighter plane, me, myself, I’ve saved hundreds of millions of dollars in negotiations. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t like seeing anybody having a question about flying,’ he said.

‘I don’t like to see that happen. And I think it’s a shame because as a human being, Tom Price is a very good man, I can tell you that.’

‘It’s not a question of competence,’ Trump continued. ‘I was disappointed because I didn’t like it cosmetically or otherwise. I was disappointed.’

Price is the first cabinet official – confirmed by the Senate – who Trump has let go. He joins a string of senior administration who have been the door during Trump’s nine-month tenure.

These have included chief of staff Reince Preibus, chief strategist Steve Bannon, Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, and press secretary Sean Spicer.

An administration official with knowledge of the situation confirmed the assessment shortly before the shoe dropped.

The president ‘cares about how things look, and this looks really bad. He’s not a happy camper,’ said the official.

Price himself acknowledged the tenuousness of his situation, telling Fox News on Thursday: ‘I work at the pleasure of the president.’

Price took flights to Europe aboard U.S. military jets that cost taxpayers more than $500,000 to operate – and brought his wife along for the trip.

The cost of Price’s international was revealed after his job was already on the line following revelations about his costly domestic jet travel on government-owned jets.

The White House released Price’s resignation letter.

‘In order for you to move forward without further disruption, I am officially tendering my resignation as the Secretary of Health and Human Services effective 11:59 pm on Friday September 29, 2017,’ Price wrote.

Trump had said he is ‘not happy’ with the situation – and Price on Thursday agreed to pay back taxpayers $52,000 – the cost of his seats on the domestic flights, but not the total costs.

Price’s international trips about military jets bring his grand total to over $1 million since January. The trips were approved by the White House, which oversees travel by cabinet secretaries aboard military aircraft,Politico reported as it revealed the cost of the trips.

Price was accompanied by his wife, Betty, as he toured global capitals this spring to attend global health conferences. He flew to Berlin, Geneva, Beijing, Tokya, Ho Chi Minh City, as well as Liberia.

He used a C-37B aircraft for the trip, according to the report – a military version of a Gulfstream jet.

Not found in either the official statement or any of Trump’s comments is a mention of the spectacular collapse of the GOP’s bill to repeal Obamacare.

Trump told thousands of Boy Scouts at a late July National Jamboree that Price’s job hung in the balance if an Obamacare repeal wasn’t passed in Congress.

‘Are you gonna get the votes? He better get them,’ Trump boomed. ‘He better get them. Oh, he better, otherwise I’ll say, “Tom, you’re fired!” I’ll get somebody.’

In another embarrassing disclosure indicating Price has adversaries within the administration,Buzzfeed reported that Price asked a White House official – only two months after Trump took office – to tell the president he wanted to reopen an executive dining room at HHS. He wanted to reconstitute the dining facility, which had been closed since the George W. Bush administration, a second source confirmed to the publication.

THUMBS DOWN: Price is the first cabinet official ¿ confirmed by the Senate ¿ who Trump has let go

THUMBS DOWN: Price is the first cabinet official – confirmed by the Senate – who Trump has let go
The president said Price's status would be decided tonight, but the White House announced Price was gone Friday afternoon

The president said Price’s status would be decided tonight, but the White House announced Price was gone Friday afternoon
Former Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) stands with his wife Betty Price before being sworn in as the new Health and Human Services Secretary, on February 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Betty Price accompanied Price on his trip to Europe this spring

Former Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) stands with his wife Betty Price before being sworn in as the new Health and Human Services Secretary, on February 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. Betty Price accompanied Price on his trip to Europe this spring

Price undertook a damage control effort to try to save his job Thursday – releasing a statement saying he was done with government jets, agreeing to pay back some funds, and making his case on Fox News – a favorite network for the president, where he hailed Trump as a ‘remarkable leader.’

‘I work at the pleasure of the president. The president is a remarkable leader I’m incredibly privileged to serve in his cabinet and work on behalf of the American people,’ Price said.

‘I look forward to regaining the trust that the American people, some of the American people may have lost in the activities that I took,’ he continued. ‘And to not only regain the trust of the American people but to gain the trust of the administration and the president.’

The White House refused to say Thursday that Price would keep his job in the administration amid ongoing probes of his use of government-provided jets.

‘I think the president’s addressed this yesterday,’ White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the Thursday press briefing at the White House. ‘We’re going through this process, we’re going to conduct a full review, and we’ll see what happens,’ Sanders said.

Thursday afternoon, HHS announced he was stopping all private jet travel and giving back funds spent to ferry him to appointments around the country.

‘To make sure everyone knows that I understand and appreciate this, and to make sure everyone knows that this will never happen again, I am taking the following steps,’ Price wrote.

Trump ‘not happy’ towards health chief

‘My staff and I will continue to cooperate fully with the OIG and internal review. I will take no more private charter flights as Secretary of HHS. No exceptions.’

‘Today, I will write a personal check to the US Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes. The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes,’ Price wrote.

Price got a flu shot at an event at the National Press club but left before taking questions amid the intense media scrutiny.

‘I think we’ve still got the full confidence of the president’ he told reporters who caught him outside.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is having his use of government jets examined by an inspector general as well as by the House Oversight committee

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is having his use of government jets examined by an inspector general as well as by the House Oversight committee

Sanders’ comments came a day after Trump let reporters know he was ‘not happy’ about the situation – and indicated he had told Price so himself.

‘I was looking into and will look into it, and I will tell you personally, I’m not happy about it, I am not happy about it,’ the president said when asked about Price as the president prepared to take a trip aboard Marine One en route to Indiana Wednesday.

‘I am not happy about it and I let him know it,’ Trump added.

‘As the president said yesterday, he’s not thrilled, definitely not happy,’ Sanders said when asked about it.

Price's government jet tab not surpasses $1 million when military flights approved by the White House are included

Price’s government jet tab not surpasses $1 million when military flights approved by the White House are included

‘The White House does not have a role on the front-end, of approving private charter flights at the agencies, and that’s something that we’re certainly looking into from this point forward, and have asked a halt be put, particularly at HHS, on any private charter flights moving forward, until those reviews are completed,’ she said.

An inspector general and a House committee are already looking at the conduct, and HHS is also conducting an internal review.

Sanders said the White House was looking at agency jet use generally.

When a reporter noted that counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway was aboard one flight with Price and whether the White House was aware, she responded: ‘I didn’t say we weren’t aware. I said the White House doesn’t authorize those private charter flights.’

Price is under fire for using government jets when he could have flown commercial

Price is under fire for using government jets when he could have flown commercial
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price speaks with reporters aboard Air Force One in flight during a trip with US President Donald Trump to Beaver, West Virginia, July 24, 2017.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price speaks with reporters aboard Air Force One in flight during a trip with US President Donald Trump to Beaver, West Virginia, July 24, 2017.

Sanders also tried to take a shot at the Obama administration, whose cabinet officials have said they seldom if ever used charter corporate-style aircraft, pointing to the use of military aircraft.

‘When it comes to military aircraft, that’s a part where the White House does actually play a role. And on that front, the Trump administration has actually authorized far fewer flights for senior government officials than the Obama administration did during the same time period,’ she said.

‘And so we’re continuing to look at ways to bring that back, under the places where the White House has that direct control and authority, which is under military aircraft, which we’ve cut back significantly at this point,’ she said.

Price is already under fire for running up travel costs of more than $400,000 using government-owned corporate-style jets rather than flying commercial as he travels around the country.

NOT HAPPY: President Donald Trump said he is 'not happy' with the situation, which is under review by the White House, Congress, and an inspector general

NOT HAPPY: President Donald Trump said he is ‘not happy’ with the situation, which is under review by the White House, Congress, and an inspector general

Politico revealed that one trip was to the resort area of St. Simons Island in Georgia, where Price and his wife own property.

House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement Friday praising his former colleague that did not mention the air scandal.

‘Tom Price is a good man. He has spent his entire adult life fighting for others, first as a physician and then as a legislator and public servant,’ said Ryan.

‘He was a leader in the House and a superb health secretary. His vision and hard work were vital to the House’s success passing our health care legislation. I will always be grateful for Tom’s service to this country and, above all, his continued friendship.’

The White House released Price’s resignation letter.

‘In order for you to move forward without further disruption, I am officially tendering my resignation as the Secretary of Health and Human Services effective 11:59 pm on Friday September 29, 2017,’ Price wrote.

Trump had said he is ‘not happy’ with the situation – and Price on Thursday agreed to pay back taxpayers $52,000 – the cost of his seats on the domestic flights, but not the total costs

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