President Donald Trump has made it clear, both in private and to reporters, that he is not pleased Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price spent more than $400,000 of taxpayer money to travel around the country on private jets.
The President told reporters this week that he is “not happy” with Price, and when asked if he would fire the health secretary, Trump replied, “We’ll see.” Behind closed doors, Trump has fumed for days; according to several reports out Thursday, the possibility of firing Price has been floated, but Trump hasn’t indicated he will actually dismiss the health secretary.
Since the reports on Trump’s anger came out, Politico revealed that Price and his aides also spent more than $500,000 to travel abroad on military planes.
Trump’s anger with Price has grown in the last day or so, according to a New York Times report out Thursday night. The President told a person close to him that he reserves the right to fire Price, and that the health secretary’s pledge to pay for his seats on the planes would not necessarily save him his job, according to the Times.
Some advisers to Trump have suggested he fire Price, although the President indicated he’s not ready to ask for Price’s resignation, per CNN’s Thursday evening report.
The New York Times reported that Trump was “incensed” by Price’s spending on charter planes, complaining to aides and lamenting that Price’s travel practices do not align with his “drain the swamp” campaign message.
Names are already being floated for Price’s replacement in case the story worsens, according to CNN and Axios. The two outlets reported that Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma both have been mentioned. Axios also reported that former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been floated.
In addition to the frustration over Price’s private plane usage, Trump is likely disappointed that the HHS head was not able to sell Congress on a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Back in July, Trump joked that he would fire Price if he didn’t secure the votes for a repeal bill.
“By the way, you’re going to get the votes?” Trump said to Price at a July speech for the Boy Scouts in West Virginia.
“He better get ’em. He better get ’em. Oh, he better,” Trump added. “Otherwise I’ll say, Tom, you’re fired. I’ll get somebody.”