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Tom Price, the US health and human services secretary, traveled overseas on military planes at least twice this year, Politico reported on Thursday evening.
The White House twice gave Price permission to use military jets for trips to Africa, Europe, and Asia, Politico said. Price’s wife, Betty, reportedly joined him on those flights, which Politico said cost US taxpayers more than $500,000.
A White House spokesman said in a statement that travel on military jets was sometimes “an appropriate and necessary use of resources.”
Price has been criticized in recent days for using private chartered flights to conduct government business. Since May, the health secretary has taken at least 24 such flights, at a cost of about $400,000 to taxpayers.
Politico said the cost of Price’s private and military air travel combined this year has passed $1 million.
Price said in a statement on Thursday that he would pay the government about $52,000 for the cost of his seat on the private domestic flights. A spokeswoman for his office said Price reimbursed the government for his wife’s travel on the international trips.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he was “not happy” about his health secretary’s frequent use of private planes. “I’m going to look at it. I let him know it,” Trump said, apparently leaving open the possibility of firing him.
Still, Price echoed the president’s comments in an interview Thursday night with Fox News’ Bret Baier. “I look forward to gaining – regaining the trust of the American people,” Price said, adding that he also hoped to “gain the trust of the administration and the president” again.
“There will be no private air charters at HHS going forward,” Price said.
Price at one time billed himself as a fiscal conservative. As recently as 2009, he rebuked government spending on travel, CNBC reported at the time, specifically calling out House Democrats who wanted to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on private jets.