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Health Secretary Tom Price resigns amid scandal over private flights

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price attends an opioid roundtable discussion in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. First lady Melania Trump invited experts and people affected by addiction to opioids to the White House for a listening session and discussion about the epidemic. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price officially resigned on Friday, the White House announced in a statement.

According to the White House, Price “offered his resignation earlier today” and President Donald Trump accepted.

Trump will now designate Don J. Wright, the deputy assistant secretary for Health and director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, to serve as the acting secretary.

In his resignation letter, Price wrote that it was an “honor and privilege to serve you as the Secretary of Health and Human Services” but that he regrets that recent events have “created a distraction from … important objectives.”

“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,” the letter said.

The health secretary’s resignation comes after days of reports that uncovered Price’s use of private charter flights to conduct government business.

According to Politico, which broke the story 10 days ago, the total costs of his international flights could have cost taxpayers more than $1 million since May.

The Associated Press reported earlier on Friday that Trump had been telling associates that Price became a distraction, overshadowing his agenda and undermining his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” of corruption, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Price had offered public regrets and a partial repayment on Thursday, but that didn’t seem to calm the furor, particularly in the White House. The repayment — $51,887.31, according to Price’s office — covered only the secretary’s seat. Price did not address the overall cost of the flights.

The perception of Price jetting around — including a three-nation trip in May to Africa and Europe — while GOP lawmakers labored to repeal “Obamacare” raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill. Price flew on military aircraft overseas.

The controversy was a catalyst for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to launch a government-wide travel investigation. The panel is seeking detailed records from the White House and 24 departments and agencies on the use of government planes as well as private charters.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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