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Price flew internationally on government aircraft

Posted at 11:20 PM, Sep 28, 2017

In addition to chartering private jets for official business, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price traveled on government aircraft for two multi-stop international trips, an Air Force official told CNN.

In May, the Air Force's 89th Airlift Wing flew Price on a C-37 from Andrews Air Force Base, in Maryland, to Monrovia, Liberia, then to Berlin, and then to Geneva, the official said. The trip also included a logistical stop in Ghana before returning to Andrews on May 24.

In August, Price flew from Andrews to Anchorage, and from there to Beijing, Saigon, Hanoi, Tokyo and Seattle before returning to Andrews, the Air Force official said. The trip had also had a stop for fuel in Korea.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense executive secretary is responsible for prioritizing and approving flights.

The process for approving military flights for Cabinet officials is separate and distinct from the one for allowing the chartering of private planes, a person familiar with the process told CNN.

The former process requires the White House's sign-off, a procedure that began under President Barack Obama and has continued under President Donald Trump.

Typically, requests come from officials who need to maintain secure communications during their flights, the source familiar with the process said. It's not clear if that was the case with Price.

Between January 20 and September 19, the White House has authorized 77 government flights for Cabinet officials. In the same span in 2009, the Obama administration approved 94 such flights, and in 2016, approved 101.

Trump's deputy chief of staff for operations, Joe Hagin, met with agency officials to brief them on the process for requesting military transport and give them a rundown of what types of travel should be approved.

Price has been under fire for his transportation, having used taxpayer-funded flights on private charter planes for multiple trips.

The secretary said Thursday he will reimburse Treasury for the reportedly dozens of charter flights he took, and he has reiterated that the flights were approved by the administration.