White House to Cabinet: No private air travel without Kelly’s approval

The White House cracked down on Cabinet officials’ use of private planes Friday, telling them chief of staff John Kelly must approve almost all travel on “government-owned, rented, leased, or chartered aircraft,” after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned over his own taxpayer-funded flights.

Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, sent out the memo soon after Price’s resignation was made public. His exit came after a series of POLITICO reports about his frequent use of private planes to conduct government — and sometimes personal — business.

“In light of recent events, the President has asked me to remind the heads of all executive departments and agencies of Administration policies on travel,” Mulvaney wrote.

He reminded the department and agency heads that, by regulation, “Government-owned, rented, leased, or chartered aircraft should not be used for travel by Government employees except with specific justification.”

“However, beyond the law and formal policy, departments and agencies should recognize that we are public servants,” Mulvaney wrote. “Every penny we spend comes from the taxpayer. 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.”

Mulvaney added: “Put another way, just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.”

Officials should stick to commercial travel “with few exceptions,” he wrote.

In the wake of the controversy, other administration officials’ travels have come under scrutiny. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has used military planes for some trips, POLITICO reported, while EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have also raised eyebrows with their travel itineraries.

President Donald Trump was livid over the Price scandal and accepted his resignation on Friday.

“We have great secretaries, and we have some that actually own their own planes, so that solves that,” Trump told reporters earlier on Friday.