President Donald Trump’s private jet-loving health secretary isn’t taking off just yet.
Tom Price, Trump’s head of Health and Human Services, spoke with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Wednesday and didn’t offer his resignation over his taxpayer-funded trips on charter jets, said a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Price is facing investigations by Congress and the HHS Office of Inspector General over what Politico has reported are at least 24 private flights with costs totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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Asked earlier Wednesday whether he would fire Price, Trump said he was looking “very closely” at the possibility. “I am not happy with him,” the president said.
If Price stays, the White House may simply let him deal with the scandal himself. The White House won’t defend Price’s use of charter flights for routine travel, another official said, calling it an inappropriate use of federal money.
Trump is also displeased with Price over the failure so far to pass legislation repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but has kept him on because of Price’s relationship with House Speaker Paul Ryan, according to a person close to the president.
Price staying, however, raises the risk of a drumbeat of stories about his use of the jets when at least two other cabinet officials — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt — are also facing questions over similar use of private or government aircraft.
Earlier in the day, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released a letter asking Price for details on his use of “government-owned aircraft for personal travel or private non-commercial aircraft for official travel.” The oversight letter is part of a wider probe by the committee into the use of government planes or private aircraft by senior Trump administration officials.
The letter, signed by the committee’s top Republican and Democrat, gives Price two weeks to provide the records. It also drags the former congressman into an inquiry led by fellow Republicans, a relative rarity in Washington politics.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Photo: Treasury)
HHS said that it has initiated its own review of travel processes and procedures and will fully cooperate with Congress and the agency’s Office of Inspector General.