WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he will decide Friday evening whether to retain his health secretary Tom Price amid a growing private plane scandal that has engulfed the administration.
Departing the White House for his golf club in New Jersey, Trump told reporters Price was a “very fine man,” but that he was undecided on his fate.
“We’re going to make a decision sometime tonight,” Trump said.
He bemoaned the optics of the matter, which he said obscured what otherwise had been a cost-saving tenure.
“I was disappointed because I didn’t like it, cosmetically or otherwise. I was disappointed,” Trump said.
Moments later, as he boarded Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, Trump said he hadn’t yet received an offer of resignation from Price.
But White House officials, speaking anonymously to describe internal matters, said they expected such an offer to be made soon.
“I’m disappointed in him,” Trump said on the tarmac of the airbase. “He’s a good man but I’m disappointed.”
Trump has fumed about Price’s use of private jets to travel around the country on routes easily accessible by commercial means. He’s been encouraged by some advisers to fire Price in a show of authority, but as of Thursday Trump has indicated in private he’s not ready to dismiss the former congressman.
Price said Thursday he would reimburse the US government for the cost of his private air travel, though not for the full cost of chartering the planes, which ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead, a spokesperson for HHS said Price would cut a check to the US Treasury for $51,887.31, the amount for his seat on the private flights he took.
“By paying for my portions of these trips, I think it’s a huge demonstration. It’s unique. It’s never been done before, unprecedented, as I’m told,” Price said on Fox News.
The explanation did little to dampen Trump’s fury over the situation, however. He believed Price’s repayment move half-baked, and is still considering dismissing him.
Asked by CNN’s Greg Wallace Thursday afternoon if he planned to stay in his job, Price said: “Absolutely.”
The White House said Thursday it was considering adopting new oversight of administration officials’ use of private planes.