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Tom Price, ousted health secretary, repaid $60K for his travel

March 13, 2018 GMT

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price wrote checks totaling $60,000 to repay taxpayers for pricey plane trips that cost him his job, though Democratic investigators aren’t satisfied, saying White House counselor Kellyanne Conway accompanied him and should account for the costs of her seat.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, Maryland Democrat and ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, urged Chairman Trey Gowdy to open an investigation. He said the White House provided a series of “inexplicable excuses” and told them to seek the information from other sources.

“To date, the White House has refused to provide any documents at all, including those relating to Ms. Conway’s participation in these trips, whether she intends to repay the taxpayers for the cost of her travel, or whether the President is considering any disciplinary action against her in light of his decision to fire Secretary Price for participating in the same trips,” Mr. Cummings said in a letter to Mr. Gowdy.

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The letter pointed to four trips that Mrs. Conway participated in between May and September of last year.

The White House slammed the request.

“This partisan attack on Kellyanne is ridiculous. Members of the President’s Cabinet invite relevant White House staff for official travel to events advancing the President’s agenda. When White House staff accompany Cabinet Members their travel plans are arranged, secured and financed by the inviting agency,” White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said.

The House Oversight Committee is charged with scrutinizing the White House and government agencies and holding them accountable.

Back in September, Mr. Gowdy and Mr. Cummings opened a probe into senior officials’ use of government-owned aircraft or private non-commercial planes.

Mr. Cummings is prodding the chairman to get heavy, saying it is the only way committee investigators will be taken seriously and pry loose information.

“If you do not issue a subpoena at this point, it will be obvious to the White House and the American people that the Committee has no intention of serving as a true check on the Executive Branch,” he said.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar has replaced Mr. Price, a former congressman from Georgia, who resigned last fall after Politico detailed his use of private flights instead of cheaper, commercial options.

His departure came in the wake of congressional Republicans’ failure to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Mrs. Conway, meanwhile, has been a steady fixture at the White House, championing President Trump’s policies on television and quarterbacking efforts to tackle the opioids epidemic.

The Office of Special Counsel sent a report to Mr. Trump recently recommending disciplinary action against Mrs. Conway for political activity while in her White House role.

Last year, Mrs. Conway appeared in two television interviews where she appeared to promote Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, and discouraged voters from supporting Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the Alabama race.

The White House pushed back against the OSC’s findings, saying Mrs. Conway actually complied with the Hatch Act by urging voters to support candidates who support Mr. Trump’s agenda, rather than advocating for a specific candidate.