As part of the growing private jet (ab)use scandal that has recently rocked the Trump administration, on Friday afternoon the White House announced that Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price offered his resignation and President Trump has accepted, according to the Press Sec. office.
Full White House statment below:
Statement from the Press Secretary
Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price offered his resignation earlier today and the President accepted. The President intends to designate Don J. Wright of Virginia to serve as Acting Secretary, effective at 11:59 p.m. on September 29, 2017. Mr. Wright currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
And here is Price's full resignation letter:
The resignation follows a Politico report according to which Tim Price took military jets to Europe, Asia for over $500K. In addition to all of the more than two dozen private and chartered jets Price has taken since May, the pricetag had risen north of $1 million taxpayer dollars, according to calculations made by Politico.
Trump had previously left open the question of Price's future employment. "I was looking into it and I will look into it," he told reporters earlier this week. "I will tell you personally, I'm not happy about it. I am not happy about it I'm going to look at it. I let him know it." Asked whether he will fire Price over the private jet use, Trump responded cryptically: "We'll see."
Price, sensing he is in deep trouble, tried to stanch the bleeding on Thursday by pledging to write a check covering the cost of his seat on all of these private plane trips - including one from Washington to Philadelphia that cost $25,000.
In the end it wasn't enough.
Price if just the first of as many as Trump admin officials who are in trouble over private jet use. As Axios summarizes, there are at least four others who are in hot water over the exact same thing:
Scott Pruitt, Environmental Protection Agency administrator
The flights: A June 7 military flight to Ohio then New York ($36,068); a July 27 charter flight from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Guymon, Oklahoma ($14,434); an August 4 charter flight from Denver, Colorado, to Durango, ColoradoA ($5,719); an August 9 flight on the North Dakota governor's plane ($2,144). Pruitt took "non-commercial" flights costing taxpayers more than $58,000, according to CBS News.
The defense: "When the administrator travels, he takes commercial flights," EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told the Washington Post Wednesday, adding that the one charter flight and three government flights were due to particular circumstances.
Last month, the EPA's inspector general announced it was launching a preliminary probe into Pruitt's travels to Oklahoma.
Steve Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary
The flights: Mnuchin requested a government jet earlier this year for his honeymoon, according to ABC News. He and his wife also used a government jet when traveling to Louisville and Fort Knox, Kentucky, which coincided with the eclipse. An Air Force spokesman told ABC News that a government jet typically costs roughly $25,000 per hour to operate.
The defense: Mnuchin told Politico's Ben White that the honeymoon story was "misreported" and the use of such a plane would only be for "national security" purposes. He also denied that his Kentucky trip had anything to do with watching the eclipse.
Mnuchin later withdrew the plane request for his honeymoon. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department's Inspector General is reviewing his Kentucky trip.
Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior
The flights: Zinke and his aides have reportedly taken several flights on private or military aircraft, including a $12,000 charter flight — which belongs to Nielson & Associates, a Wyoming-based oil-and-gas exploration firm — from Las Vegas to his hometown in Montana, and private flights between St. Croix and St. Thomas in U.S. Virgin Islands, per the Washington Post. Total cost: Unclear, as the total number of charter or military flights is unknown.
The defense: Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said those trips were booked only after officials failed to find commercial flights that would accommodate Zinke's schedule. She added that they all were "pre-cleared by career officials in the ethics office," per Politico.
The defense: "All this travel was done only after it was determined by multiple career officials at the department that no commercial options existed to meet the promulgated scheduled," Zinke said. "The flights were only booked after extensive due diligence by the career professionals in the department's general law and ethics division."
The Interior Department said in a statement to the Huffington Post Friday that Zinke's travel "was completely compliant with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations."
David Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
The flights/luxury purchases: Although Shulkin flew commercial to Europe for meetings with Danish and British officials about veterans' health issues in July, he did use government funds to fly his wife out, stating that she was traveling on "approved invitational orders," per the Washington Post. The government also provided a stipend for her meals. They also attended a Wimbledon championship tennis match, toured Westminster Abbey, and took a cruise on the Thames.
The defense: All of Shulkin's activities on the trip, including Wimbledon visit, "were reviewed and approved by ethics counsel," VA press secretary Curt Cashour said in a statement.
In response to questions from The Post, the VA announced Friday that they'll start posting details of the Shulkin's travel online, and disclose any use of government or private aircraft. This information was never previously public.