President Trump on Friday said he will decide the fate of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price "sometime tonight," as Price faces intense scrutiny for his use of private charter planes and military jets.
Mr. Trump, speaking to reporters before leaving for his golf club in New Jersey Friday afternoon, said he would "probably be announcing something in the very near future," and called Price, "a very, very fine man." Price has billed the federal government forfor domestic flights, and flown military jets abroad to the tune of , according to Politico. Price on Thursday pledged to pay back nearly $52,000 to the U.S. Treasury for his seat, although critics quickly pointed out that doesn't come close to the reported total for his flights.
"I felt badly because Secretary Price is a good man," the president said. "But we are looking into it, and we're looking into it very strongly. We'll take a look. I'll be announcing something in the pretty near future."
Mr. Trump also said the Obama administration took a lot of flights and spent a lot of time in the air. But Mr. Trump said he doesn't like the "optics" of the situation, when he's working to save money.
"I have a great cabinet," the president said. "We save hundreds of millions of dollars through negotiation. I'll give an example, with the F-35 fighter plane, me, myself, I've saved hundreds of millions of dollars in negotiating. And that's one of the reasons I don't like seeing anybody even have a question about fly. I just don't want to do that. We're saving tremendous amounts no matter where we go. If you look at what we've done in Florida and Texas, we've done that for relatively little compared to other people. I don't like to see that happen. And i think it's a shame. As a human being, Tom Price is a very good man. I can tell you."
"I'm not happy, I can tell you, I'm not happy," he added.
Price has particularly drawn criticism because he preached fiscal conservatism when he was in Congress, and harped on then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for her use of a private jet. His travel is under investigation by the HHS inspector general.
But Price isn't the only secretary who is under scrutiny. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's travel is under review after he reportedly flew on a government plane to view the eclipse with his wife last month, andspent more than $58,000 on non-commercial travel, CBS News has reported.