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Price vows reimbursement for flights ‘approved through the normal process’

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price speaks to CNN on April 19, 2017.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price reiterated amid mounting criticism Thursday that trips he took by private charter jet were allowed by both legal and HHS officials.

“These trips were approved through the normal process,” Price told Fox News Thursday night.

The comments echo a statement Price made earlier Thursday saying he is taking a number of measures to make up for the flights, which have drawn intense scrutiny, including refraining from taking charter planes again in the future.

“All of my political career I’ve fought for the taxpayers,” Price said in the statement. “It is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer. I know as well as anyone that the American people want to know that their hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely by government officials.”

Price also said in his statement that will write a personal check to the US Treasury to cover the cost of his travel on private charter planes, adding that he continues to “welcome” and is cooperating with a Office of Inspector General review as well as taking part in an departmental review to ” determine if any changes or reforms are necessary.”

“Today, I will write a personal check to the US Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes,” Price said in his statement. “The taxpayers won’t pay a dime for my seat on those planes.”

According to a Health and Human Services Department spokesperson, the check Price promised will cover his seat rather than the total cost of the flights, which is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“What the Secretary has done is say that while all of this travel was approved by legal and HHS officials, the Secretary has heard the taxpayers’ concerns and wants to be responsive to them,” the spokesperson said. “That’s why he’s taking the unprecedented step of reimbursing the government for his share of the travel. Secretary Price will write a personal check to the US Treasury for $51,887.31.”

Price’s wife traveled with him on the two trips, and the Prices reimbursed the government for her travel, a Health and Human Services official told CNN.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump weighed in on the reports that Price had been using taxpayer-funded private charter planes for travel.

“I was looking into it and I will look into it. I will tell you personally, I’m not happy about it,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday. “I am not happy about it I’m going to look at it. I let him know it.”

But two people familiar with the Trump’s thinking said Price’s partial repayment isn’t helping his case in the eyes of the President.

The sources said Trump wants the matter resolved and thinks Price’s announcement that he will pay only a fraction of the total cost is fueling the story further.

Price remains on shaky ground with the President, the sources said, but Trump wants to see how the investigation proceeds and still has not decided if Price should be fired.

Politico reported that Price traveled on charter planes at least 24 times since May.

“I have spent forty years both as a doctor and in public service putting people first. It has been my personal honor to serve the American people, and I look forward to continuing that service,” Price said in the Thursday statement.

Additionally, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took three trips where he used private, chartered flights which were paid for out of the Department of Interior budget, his office told CNN.

The Department of Interior provided details of the trips to CNN, including a trip to Norway with stops in Alaska and a trip from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Kalispell, Montana.