Trump 'not happy' with HHS Secretary Tom Price after private jet controversy

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.

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Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price
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Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price (L) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney (r) speak to reporters after the Congressional Budget Office released its score on proposed Republican health care legislation at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price addresses the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (C) and Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini (R) listen to U.S. President Donald Trump speak during a meeting with health insurance company CEOs at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) testifies before a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price (C) meet with representatives of conservative political groups, including American Conservative Union Chairman Matthew Schlapp (R), to discuss their plans for repealing and replacing ObamaCare in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Rep. Tom Price gets into an elevator at Trump Tower, November 16, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet positions for the new administration.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (C) and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price (R) attend a cabinet meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) hands the pen to Representative Tom Price (R-GA) after signing a bill repealing Obamacare at the U.S. Capitol in Washington January 7, 2016. The U.S. Congress on Wednesday approved legislation dismantling President Barack Obama's signature health care plan, putting on his desk an election-year measure that faces a certain veto.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Chairman of the House Budget Committee Tom Price (R-GA) announces the House Budget during a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 17, 2015.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (L) takes to the podium to address the daily press briefing as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (R) steps aside at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 7, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Rep. Tom Price arrives at Trump Tower, November 16, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet positions for the new administration.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) (L) is welcomed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) prior to testifying before a confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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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."

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.

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NFL players, owners protest after Trump's harsh criticism
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NFL players, owners protest after Trump's harsh criticism
Sep 24, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts players kneel during the playing of the National Anthem before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Baltimore Ravens players kneel for the American National anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Members of the Dallas Cowboys link arms and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan links arms with players during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: (L-R) Wide recceivers Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman of the Baltimore Ravens pray prior to kickoff during the NFL match between The Jacksonville Jaguars and The Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Patrick Omameh of the Jacksonville Jaguars kneels during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: (Editors Note: This image has been turned black and white) Jacksonville Jaguars enter te stadium during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Denver Broncos at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Denver Bronco players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) and teammates stand next to service members holding a giant US flag during the national anthem prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; The Cleveland Browns team stand and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers link arms during the national anthem prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44) middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) running back Ameer Abdullah (21) outside linebacker Steve Longa (54) defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter (98) defensive end Armonty Bryant (97) defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson (91) and defensive end Cornelius Washington (90) kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets players lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Members of the Denver Broncos kneel during the playing of the national anthem prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; The Dallas Cowboys players, coaches and staff take a knee prior to the National Anthem before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the playing of the United Sates national anthem before a NFL International Series game against the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Members of the New England Patriots take a knee during the national anthem before a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Some of the Miami Dolphins take a knee during the anthem prior to the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Members of the New England Patriots kneel for the national anthem before the start of the game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Patrick Omameh of the Jacksonville Jaguars kneels during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders players sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to their game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder stands with cornerback Josh Norman (24) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (26) and safety D.J. Swearinger (36) during the playing of the national anthem before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders players sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to their game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Marcus Peters (22) protests next to running back Charcandrick West (35) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (98) during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Lance Kendricks (84) and tight end Martellus Bennett (80) sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Recording artist Meghan Linsey kneels after singing the national anthem before the game between the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets players lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan links arms with players during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Members of the Chicago Bears stand arm-in-arm during the National Anthem before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs is seen taking a knee during the National Anthem before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center on September 24, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 General view during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
At the start of the game protestors take a knee in support of the movement started by NFL player Colin Kaepernick, outside Lincoln Financial Field, in South Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2017. Similar protest are staged around the nation after US President Donald Trump named Kaepernick a Son of A Bitch at a recent rally. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Strong safety Tyvon Branch #27 of the Arizona Cardinals links arms with staff and players during the National Anthem before the start of the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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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.

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