Under fire for taking a number of private charter jets at taxpayer expense for government trips, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned on Friday, as the White House said Price had offered his resignation, and President Donald Trump had accepted that. The announcement came not long after Mr. Trump had told reporters a decision on Price’s future was imminent.
“I’m not happy, okay?” the President told reporters. “I’m not happy.”
But Mr. Trump – who has railed against others in his Cabinet, only to allow them to keep their jobs – did not specifically say what he was going to do with Price.
“Is it safe to say he’ll be leaving your Cabinet, sir?” the President was asked with Marine One idling in the background.
“I don’t want to say, but we’ll be announcing something today,” Mr. Trump added.
As he left the White House for a weekend at his golf retreat in Bedminster, New Jersey, the President seemed to be more than ready to bounce Price from his Cabinet, mixing words of praise for the former Congressman from Georgia with frustration over the Secretary’s spending on private charter jets.
“Secretary Price is a nice man,” the President said of his pick to run HHS.
“I certainly don’t like the optics,” Mr. Trump said, repeatedly talking about how his administration has saved hundreds of millions of dollars for the taxpayers by making certain changes at the federal level.
While Price has said he will repay his portion for a variety of flights, totaling over $50,000, the HHS chief had avoided most reporters, sitting only for an interview with Fox News on Thursday evening.
On Capitol Hill, Democrats slammed their former colleague, saying the Georgia Republican who once preached fiscal conservatism was now spending taxpayer dollars without worry.
“Secretary Price must resign,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN).
“As a Congressman, Tom Price called the use of private planes by members of Congress ‘fiscal irresponsibility run amok,'” Cohen added. “Now, as the Secretary of HHS, his priorities have clearly shifted.”
“President Trump promised to drain the swamp,” said Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), “But today, yet another of his top officials has resigned in disgrace.”
“This is a start, but it wasn’t just Price,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), one of many Democrats who argue there are other Trump Administration officials with ethics issues that deserve attention.
“Too many of Donald Trump’s officials have abused the public trust,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).
“Just because you resign doesn’t mean you’re off the hook,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who argued that Price “must pay back every penny the taxpayers paid for his private jets.”