Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has reportedly taken over $400,000 in private chartered jet travel and over $500,000 worth of overseas travel using military aircraft, adding up to over $1 million in travel expenditures just since May.
All the costs were expensed to the Health and Human Services Department, and essentially, American taxpayers.
Is this out of the ordinary?
Price's two immediate predecessors would typically fly commercial flights, and an HHS spokesperson said the department's policy was to only use chartered jets when commercial flights were not readily available. But Politico's report documented many instances where he could have easily chosen commercial but chartered a private jet instead.
Were these personal trips or government-related business?
While Price's destinations were business related, Politico documented several instances where Price co-mingled personal visits with business trips. For instance, one of Price's chartered trips was to Nashville, Tennessee, where he owns a condominium and where his son lives. While he briefly spoke at a local health summit and toured a medical dispensary, he also had lunch with his son, all for a price tag of nearly $18,000.
How has Price responded?
"All of these trips were official business," Price said on Fox News Thursday. "All of them were approved by the normal processes that every other administration has gone through prior to the trip, not after. But we've heard the concerns."
Price said he would reimburse the U.S. Treasury for his share of the cost for the chartered planes, which totals $51,887.31. The amount only includes the total for his seat on all the chartered flights, not for the other associated costs of the flights or the cost of the military aircraft. He also promised no more chartered travel, no exceptions.
"I look forward to regaining the trust that some of the American people may have lost [due to] the activities that I took, and to not only regain the trust of the American people, but gain the trust of the administration and the president," Price said.
Is Price in trouble?
Legally, no, but he could lose his job for the unethical decisions. When asked Wednesday if he would fire Price, President Donald Trump responded, "we'll see."
"I am not happy about it. I'm going to look at it. I'm not happy about it and I let him know it," Trump said.