Tom Price, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, has resigned in the midst of a scandal over his use of private planes, a storm that enraged President Donald Trump and undercut his promise to bring accountability to Washington. Price’s departure on Friday night came as he was being investigated by the department’s inspector general for using the private jets for multiple government business trips, even to fly distances often as short as from Washington to Philadelphia, reports CNN.
The cost for the estimated 24 flights would have cost $400,000. The scandal infuriated Trump, who viewed the controversy as a needless distraction from his agenda. Over the course of the week, Trump fumed to aides about Price’s flights, which he deemed “stupid”, according to multiple sources.
Instead of moving past the storm, Price’s offer to reimburse the government for only a fraction of the flights’ costs enraged Trump further. Speaking less than an hour before the resignation was announced, Trump bemoaned the optics of the matter, which he said obscured what otherwise had been a cost-saving tenure. “I was disappointed because I didn’t like it, cosmetically or otherwise. I was disappointed,” CNN quoted Trump as saying.
Price and his aides have insisted that the trips he took by private charter jets were approved through the usual legal and ethics offices at HHS.
However, departing the White House on Friday, Trump called Price a “very fine man” who had nonetheless made a grave mistake. “This is an administration that saves hundreds of millions of dollars on renegotiating things… So I don’t like to see somebody that perhaps there’s the perception that it wasn’t right.” Prior to his role in the administration, Price was a Georgia representative for over 10 years, and was an orthopedic surgeon for 20 years. He was the third doctor to hold the HHS secretary position.