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Trump 'Not Happy' With HHS Secretary Tom Price After Private Jet Controversy

President Trump said he is "not happy" with HHS Secretary Tom Price after reports he spent thousands of federal dollars on private jets for government business.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price speaks during a HHS listening session in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington on June 21, 2017.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday that he was "not happy" with his Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, after recent reports that Price had spent thousands of federal dollars on private jets for government business.

Asked if Price would be fired, Trump left the option open.

"We'll see," he said. "I'm looking at that very closely. I am not happy with him."

Price, for his part, has defended the travel as work related while a housing department spokeswoman has insisted the secretary flies commercial when possible. The HHS inspector general's office says it is reviewing the private flights.

Trump fielded questions from reporters for about five minutes on the South Lawn of the White House. The topics ranged from criticism of National Football League players' protests during the national anthem to beleaguered Republican health care efforts and the Alabama Senate race.

The Graham-Cassidy health care bill collapsed this week after several Republican senators came out against the bill, the latest failure from the GOP on health care reform.

But Trump insisted that Republicans "have the votes" to make good on a longtime promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, reasoning that the latest health care effort stalled because of one unnamed senator who Trump said was in the hospital.

It is unclear which senator Trump was referring to; Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, has been ill but is not actually in the hospital.

The president predicted a health care vote early next year, but said he planned to work in a bipartisan fashion on the issue going forward.

But until then, Trump previewed an executive order to achieve one of the few health care specifics he'd campaigned on: buying health care coverage across state lines. That order, Trump said, would be signed "probably" next week."

Image: NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals
Sep 25, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; The Dallas Cowboys players, coaches staff and owner Jerry Jones take a knee prior to the National Anthem before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sept. 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.Matt Kartozian / USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Trump also continued his crusade against NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, denying that he was contradicting the First Amendment as he urged the league to fire players who protest.

The NFL, the president said, is in a "very bad box" and again stated that players "cannot [kneel] during the national anthem."

The NFL has "to change or their business is going to go hell," he maintained.

Trump also spoke about the Alabama senate GOP run-off on Tuesday that saw his preferred candidate defeated at the hands of a more controversial option.

Luther Strange, the incumbent who earned Trump's backing, "came a long way," the president said, but the runoff's winner, Roy Moore, now had the president's support. Moore, Trump said, is "going to be a great senator." The election is in December.