White House to Cabinet: Kelly Must Approve Flights

'Just because something is legal doesn't make it right'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 30, 2017 11:13 AM CDT
White House Cracks Down on Top Officials' Travel
President Trump with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in the Oval Office.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Trump administration officials who want to travel on government owned or chartered aircraft are going to have to run their travel requests past White House chief of staff John Kelly first, the White House said after Tom Price's resignation as health secretary Friday. In a memo to Cabinet members, White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney said that in almost all cases, "the commercial air system used by millions of Americans every day is appropriate, even for very senior officials," the Hill reports. "Every penny we spend comes from the taxpayer," he added. "We thus owe it to the taxpayer to work as hard managing that money wisely as the taxpayer must do to earn it in the first place." More:

  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke rejected suggestions his own taxpayer-funded private flights, including one that took him home to Montana after a dinner in Nevada, were improper, Los Angeles Times reports. "Every time I travel, I send the travel plan to the ethics department that reviews it line by line to make sure I am above the law and I follow the law," he said Friday. Mulvaney's memo, however, said: "Just because something is legal doesn't make it right."
  • Other Cabinet officials whose travel is now being scrutinized include EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the Washington Examiner reports. Mnuchin is being investigated for trips including a visit to Kentucky during the eclipse, which he watched from Fort Knox.

  • Trump lost faith in Price long before his expensive travel became a scandal, Politico reports. Insiders say Trump associated Price with the failure to repeal ObamaCare, feeling that he had promised to get lawmakers on board and then failed to deliver. The sources say that Trump was angered by how Price's travel made the administration look—and he wasn't pleased when Price only offered to repay $52,000 for flights believed to have cost more than $1 million.
  • Some of Trump's core supporters saw Price's travel as a sign that the president has failed to "drain the swamp" as promised, the New York Times reports. "It's hard to see how a cabinet secretary can drain the swamp from 42,000 feet in the plush interior of a taxpayer-funded Gulfstream 4," said conservative radio host Laura Ingraham.
  • The Washington Post reports on the travel of another official: Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. He spent 10 days in Europe this summer with his wife at taxpayers' expense. He met with British and Danish officials to discuss veterans' health issue, though half his time in Europe was spent sightseeing, with leisure activities including watching a tennis match at Wimbledon.
  • Don Wright has been named acting health secretary, Newsweek reports. He had been serving as director of the department's Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. According to the Times, possible long-term successors to Price include FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
(More Trump administration stories.)

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