Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said Thursday that his use of federal money to travel on private jets was part of an all-out effort to carry out President Donald Trump’s “very ambitious agenda.”
Price, who came under investigation after POLITICO revealed that he had taken at least 26 charter flights on official business since May, at a cost of more than $400,000, said in an interview on Fox News that he regretted the impact his decisions had on taxpayers. But the secretary also continued to defend the trips for having been approved through the “normal process” and thus having been “deemed appropriate official travel.”
Pressed on how he could square the costly travel with his fiscally conservative ideals, Price said the flights were booked partially out of a desire to fulfill Trump’s plans.
“These were 10 trips with 26 different legs,” he said. “We have a very ambitious agenda and we were trying our doggone best to accomplish the issue mission and the president’s agenda.”
He added: “Clearly, we weren’t sensitive to the taxpayer, which is why I’ve taken the actions I’ve taken.”
Price announced earlier Thursday that he would write a personal check to the federal government to cover his costs of traveling on private jets and that he would permanently halt the use of charter flights for official business. The announcement came as Price faced increased criticism from within the Trump administration, with the president fuming over the reports and some White House aides calling for Price’s removal from office.
Although Price said Thursday he believed he still had “the confidence of the president,” when asked later on Fox whether he was concerned about his job security, Price seemingly dodged, saying, “I work at the pleasure of the president.”
He added: “I look forward to gaining — regaining the trust the American people … may have lost in the activities that I took, and to not only regain the trust of the American people but to regain the trust of the administration and the president.”
Following Price’s comments Thursday on Fox, POLITICO reported that the White House approved the use of military aircraft for multinational trips by Price to Africa and Europe this spring, and to Asia in the summer, to the tune of more than $500,000. This brings the total taxpayer cost of Price’s travels to more than $1 million since May, according to a POLITICO review.
Henry C. Jackson contributed to this report.
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