UPDATED with White House statement: About half an hour after President Donald Trump said he would make a decision tonight on the fate of HHS Secretary Tom Price in the wake of his unfolding private plane scandal, the White House released a statement:
Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas Price offered his resignation earlier today and the President accepted. The President intends to designate Don J. Wright of Virginia to serve as Acting Secretary, effective at 11:59 p.m. on September 29, 2017. Mr. Wright currently serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Around 4 PM Washington D.C. time, Trump stood on the lawn of the White House and told reporters he felt badly because Price is a “good man” but acknowledged the optics were awful. Price had flown on private and charter planes so often – two dozen times just since May, including a trip in which he had lunch with his son and another to get him from Washington to Philadelphia, which is spitting distance away and easily reached by commercial plane, train, or car.
Politico, which broke the story, has put the price tag at about $1M and counting.
Here’s Price’s resignation letter submitted today:
The President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Re: Official Resignation of Thomas E. Price, M.D., Secretary of Health and Human Services
Dear Mr. President:
It is an honor and privilege to serve you as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Under your leadership, the Department is working aggressively to improve the health and well-being of all Americans. This includes working to reform a broken health care system, empower patients, reduce regulatory burdens, ensure global health security, and tackle clinical priorities such as the opioids epidemic, serious mental illness and childhood obesity.
I have spent forty years both as a doctor and public servant putting people first. I regret that the recent events have created a distraction from these important objectives.
Success on these issues is more important than any one person. In order for you to move forward without further disruption, I am officially tendering my resignation as the Secretary of Health and Human Services effective 11:59 PM on Friday, September 29, 2017.
You may rest assured that I will continue to support your critical priorities going ahead because failure is not an option for the American people.
Thomas E. Price, M.D.
PREVIOUS, 1:31 PM: Another Donald Trump Friday Night News Dump. This time, POTUS told reporters shortly before 4 PM Washington D.C. time that his Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price is a “very fine man, but we’re going to make a decision some time tonight” as to whether Price survives his private plane scandal.
One day earlier, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made news, saying Price’s private-jet-ordering days are over and that a full review is being conducted.
Politico first broke the story Price had been taken more than two dozen private and chartered jets, just since May. More Price-plane rannygazoo has been unearthed since, and the taxpayer price tag is estimated to be about $1 million, Politico reports.
Price now says he will reimburse the cost of his seat – not the cost of hiring the plane – which the political website calculates would be in the $50K range.
“I feel very badly, Secretary Price is a good man,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn this afternoon. “But we’re looking into it and looking into it very seriously. I will be announcing something in the pretty near future.”
“It’s not a question of confidence,” Trump said when asked. “I was disappointed because I did not like it, cosmetically or otherwise. This is an administration that saves hundreds of millions of dollars on renegotiating things…. I don’t like the optics.”