Health Secretary Tom Price resigns, regrets 'distraction'

By Danielle Haynes  |  Updated Sept. 29, 2017 at 5:28 PM
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Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price on Friday resigned amid scrutiny over his use of public funds private chartered flights, the White House announced.

The announcement came minutes after President Donald Trump told reporters he intended to decide Price's fate Friday night.

"Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price offered his resignation earlier today and the president accepted," said a statement from the office of the White House press secretary.

During an impromptu news conference Friday on the South Lawn as he departed for New Jersey, Trump described Price as a "good man." On Wednesday, though, the president said he was "not happy" about the flights, which a Politico investigation found cost at least $400,000.

In his resignation letter, Price touted the HHS' work to reform the healthcare system and tackle the opioid epidemic.

"I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives," he said.

"Success on these issues is more important than any one person," Price wrote. "In order for you to move forward without further disruption, I am officially tendering my resignation as secretary of Health and Human Services" effective midnight Friday.

On Thursday, Price apologized for using chartered aircraft instead of commercial travel and said he would repay the government $51,887.31 for his seat on the flights.

Before traveling to his golf club in New Jersey for the weekend, Trump implied he was still considering Price's fate on his Cabinet.

"We'll see," Trump said. "He's a very fine man but we're gonna make a decision sometime tonight."

Asked if the repayment of nearly $52,000 for his seat is enough, Trump said, "No, that would be unacceptable," according to a pool report.

The statement from the White House said Trump intends to designate Don Wright of Virginia as acting secretary of HHS. Prior to the announcement, Wright served as the deputy assistant secretary for health and director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

On Thursday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House called on federal agencies to stop using private chartered flights pending the results of reviews of Price's travel.

We "have asked a halt to be put -- particularly at HHS -- on any private charter flights moving forward ... until those reviews can be completed," she added.

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