The dispatches outraged many members of the department staff, given that the travel took place at a time when the agency is facing hundreds of billions of dollars in proposed budget cuts, as well as certain budget-related restrictions on work-related travel for employees.
âI canât comprehend that someone wants to throw people out of nursing homes, take millions off Medicaid and deny children and the disabled health care, but is riding around in private chartered jets, at times taking his wife,â said J. David Cox, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal workersâ union, who spoke shortly before Mr. Priceâs resignation. âThis is like an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.ââ
Mr. Price did not begin the practice of the âWeek in Reviewâ dispatches, which were also sent by Sylvia M. Burwell, Mr. Priceâs predecessor in the Obama administration. In September 2016, Ms. Burwell discussed a trip she took to Rio de Janeiro to attend the Paralympic Games, as well as trips to Ohio, Iowa and Florida in July 2016 â all three of them swing states â to see how the Obama administrationâs health care effort had brought âimportant new tools to help people live healthier lives.â
But a former official under Ms. Burwell told CNN that the former secretary generally flew commercial flights for trips. Ms. Burwell did not respond Friday to a request for comment.
Mr. Price, who was publicly rebuked on Wednesday by Mr. Trump for running up at least $400,000 in charges on private jets, drew the presidentâs ire again on Friday, only hours before his resignation. âI certainly donât like the optics,ââ Mr. Trump told reporters, although he called Mr. Price âa very fine man.ââ
âIâm not happy, I can tell you that,â the president said. âIâm not happy.â
Mr. Priceâs travels included a trip last summer to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado, where he flexed his muscles in a group photo. And in an Aug. 18 letter titled âHello From Alaska!â, Mr. Price updated staff members on plans to revamp the agency âto put people at the center of our work to be responsive and innovative.â
In all, there were 28 photo-filled, week-in-review updates so far. A dozen discuss Mr. Priceâs official travels to various spots worldwide, including Texas after Hurricane Harvey, as well as to several communities struggling with the opioid drug crisis.
Travel on private planes has been a source of trouble before for high-level federal employees, including John H. Sununu, who resigned from his post as chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush in 1991, after he was criticized for his use frequent use of military planes as well as a private jet for political events.
A congressional investigation during the tenure of President George W. Bush also found that over a five-year period ending in 2006, cabinet officials and agency heads at ten departments and agencies traveled aboard leased or chartered private aircraft on at least 125 trips to more than 300 locations, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $1.5 million.
Tesia D. Williams, a spokeswoman for the inspector generalâs office, said Friday that her office started looking into Mr. Priceâs travel on Sept. 18, following the first of a series of Politico stories that have so far reported that the secretary has run up more than $1 million in noncommercial flights. Those trips include the flight to Nashville and another trip to Georgia, where Mr. Price spoke at a medical conference near a resort island where he owns property.
The inspector generalâs office, Ms. Williams said, âis conducting a review of Secretary Priceâs Federal travel using chartered aircraft. The review focuses on whether the travel complied with Federal Travel Regulations, but may encompass other issues related to the travel.â
âWe take this matter very seriously, and when questions arose about potentially inappropriate travel, we immediately began assessing the issue,â Ms. Williams added. âWork is underway and will be completed as soon as possible.â
This week, the House Oversight Committee began an investigation into the travel of Mr. Trumpâs senior administration members. The inquiry, opened by Representatives Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, the committeeâs chairman, and Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the panelâs ranking Democrat, will examine the use of private and government travel by senior officials from 24 federal agencies.
The committee has requested passenger names, destinations and the source of payment for each trip, among other details, to be turned in by Oct. 10.
Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit group, said he has a hard time accepting Mr. Trumpâs angry reaction to Mr. Price given that the president has repeatedly flown on Air Force One to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida, and other destinations.
âHe himself personifies the problem,â Mr. Weissman said. âBut there is no protective shield for the rest of the cabinet. The president seems to think he can get away with things, but the cabinet cannot.â
In statements and in television interviews, Mr. Price did not dispute the reporting surrounding his travel.
âIt is clear to me that in this case, I was not sensitive enough to my concern for the taxpayer,â Mr. Price said in a statement on Thursday. âI know as well as anyone that the American people want to know that their hard-earned dollars are being spent wisely by government officials.â
Over the course of the week Mr. Price said repeatedly that his trips cleared both legal and administrative hurdles within his agency. Mr. Price also has said he would stop taking private jets and instituted an internal review of agency policies.