Former Health Secretary: Price's use of chartered flights is 'stunning'

Andrew Harnik  AP

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price took a government-funded private jet in August to get to St. Simons Island, an exclusive Georgia resort where he and his wife own land, a day and a half before he addressed a group of local doctors at a medical conference that he and his wife have long attended.

President Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he is also "looking into" the situation with Price. "I'm going to look at it", said Trump.

When asked if he would fire the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary over the matter, the Republican president said: "We'll see".

Price has taken as many as 24 private flights in the past few months, costing the government an estimated $300,000.

Signed by committee's top Republican and Democrat, the requests demand information on political appointees' use of government planes for personal travel, as well as their use of private charters for official travel.

In a letter Tuesday, House investigators asked Price and more than 20 other agency heads to list all use of private, charter aircraft and use of government-owned aircraft by political employees since Trump's inauguration.

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Richard Painter, the top ethics lawyers in the Bush/Cheney administration, described Price's travel practices as "highly unprofessional and really inappropriate". And I will tell you personally, I'm not happy about it.

The HHS Office of Inspector General said last week that it has opened an investigation into his travel.

According to a former Obama administration official who is in close touch multiple Health and Human Services officials in the building, there has been growing frustration with each new report of Price's private charter plane use.

Trump's remarks were the latest example of the White House distancing itself from Price's actions.

Another White House official said the repeated reports of private jet use by Price were "not good optics", but said the President was focused on the Alabama Senate race and his tax speech Wednesday and had not talked extensively to aides about Price. Gulp. By the way, I know a guy who's well qualified to be HHS secretary, has some time on his hands right now, and might very well accept the job if offered. And I think as a public servant, you have to try to set some sort of example.

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