Mar 17, 2018, 9:51 AM ET

Trump Cabinet members under scrutiny for pricey trips and $31,000 dining sets

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Several members of President Donald Trump's cabinet have been the focus of public criticism and government investigations over reports that they misspent taxpayer money on items ranging from pricey trips to Montana to $31,000 mahogany dining sets.

The White House has been critical of some of the spending and the president asked former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to resign last September after the cost of his travel on private jets reached almost $1 million.

Here is ABC News' latest reporting on the allegations and investigations into members of the president's cabinet.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt

PHOTO: Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt stands after the swearing-in ceremony for US Ambassador to Canada Kelly Knight Craft in Washington, D.C., Sept. 26, 2017. Joshua Roberts/Reuters
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt stands after the swearing-in ceremony for US Ambassador to Canada Kelly Knight Craft in Washington, D.C., Sept. 26, 2017.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been under investigation for several allegations of misusing taxpayer funds.

The agency's inspector general is looking into whether Pruitt's travel in 2017 followed all proper procedures, including his frequent flights in first and business class. The agency confirmed that Pruitt often flies an upgraded class due to security concerns but Pruitt recently said he would direct his staff to find a new security plan that would include flying in coach.

The agency has also confirmed Pruitt took one chartered flight and several other flights on government planes totaling more than $58,000 between March and May of last year.

The agency watchdog's review was originally prompted after documents reported in The New York Times showed that Pruitt traveled back to his home state of Oklahoma multiple times in his first few months as secretary.

VIDEO: EPA chief under fire for his expensive travel tastesPlay
EPA chief under fire for his expensive travel tastes

The Government Accountability Office is also looking into the agency's decision to install a "secure phone booth" in the administrator's office. A contract for the "privacy booth" is listed at about $25,000 but newly released documents show that the cost of the booth and all the construction was closer to $43,000.

The EPA's overall spending on Pruitt's security is also under review. The agency spent $3,000 to have his office swept for listening devices in March and almost $2,500 to install biometric locks with fingerprint readers in Pruitt's office the following month. The cost of his security detail has also been significantly higher than previous administrators because of an increased number of threats against him.

Senate Democrats recently asked the EPA to provide information on whether a member of his taxpayer-funded security team improperly steered the contract for the listening device sweep to a personal business associate. Other congressional Democrats have said Pruitt needs to answer questions about his travel and spending.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke

PHOTO: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, March 13, 2018, in Washington.Win McNamee/Getty Images
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, March 13, 2018, in Washington.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's travel has been under investigation after the department confirmed he took at least three charter flights between March and September, including a $12,000 charter flight from Las Vegas to Montana.

The department has said Zinke only took non-commercial flights when there were no other travel options available.

He also took three helicopter trips totaling more than $53,000, according to reporting by Politico and the Associated Press.

The Department of the Interior inspector general's report looking into Zinke's travel is expected to be made public later this year.

Last week the department confirmed it planned to spend $139,000 to replace three sets of doors in Zinke's office, saying the cost was higher because they had to protect the historical integrity of the building.

Zinke recently defended his spending in a congressional hearing on the department's budget and said in another hearing the department has negotiated the cost of the doors down to about half that price.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson

PHOTO: Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks at Vaux Big Picture High School in Philadelphia, Sept. 19, 2017. Matt Rourke/AP, FILE
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks at Vaux Big Picture High School in Philadelphia, Sept. 19, 2017.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson has been under scrutiny the last few weeks after the department confirmed that it ordered a $31,000 dining set for the secretary's office suite. Carson originally denied that he ordered the set but the agency confirmed that his wife, Candy, played a role in selecting it after a watchdog group obtained agency emails this week referencing her involvement.

There is a $5,000 legal limit on spending to redecorate the office for incoming cabinet secretaries. Any additional spending requires congressional approval.

Carson asked the department to cancel the order for the dining set.

Carson is also under investigation for including his son in a "listening tour" in Baltimore in June even after the agency's attorneys warned him it could be a conflict of interest. Ben Carson Jr. is a businessman and investor in Maryland and a HUD attorney warned Secretary Carson that his son's involvement in scheduling meetings with his business associated on the visit could look like Carson was using his position for his son's private gain.

Both incidents have raised questions from members of Congress and watchdog groups about the Carson family's involvement in official HUD business. The agency's inspector general is looking into the Baltimore listening tour at the secretary's request.

VIDEO: The agency is working to rescind the order, a spokesman said.Play
Ben Carson asks HUD to cancel order for $31,000 dining set

Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin

PHOTO: Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin appears before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, March 15, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin appears before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, March 15, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin spent $122,334 of taxpayer funds when he inappropriately accepted tickets to Wimbledon as a gift during a work trip to Europe last summer, according to a VA inspector general report. That report also found that Shulkin spent the majority of that 11-day trip sightseeing.

Shulkin has said that he will pay back some of the costs.

Shulkin was also under scrutiny for saying that he was "unaware" of issues that existed at the VA medical center in Washington, D.C., despite an interim inspector general report filed in April 2017.

He later admitted critical deficiencies likely existed at VA facilities across the country after the inspector general released a 144-page report last week detailing persistent problems at the Washington, D.C. facility.

VIDEO: Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Dr. Phil Roe, R.-Tenn., said he was disappointed in the allegations raised by the report and said he had instructed his staff to request additional documentation from the Inspector General.Play
VA secretary criticized on Capitol Hill for travel decisions

The VA inspector general is also reportedly looking into whether Shulkin used his agency-provided security detail to run personal errands, according to the Associated Press. The AP reports that investigation was sparked after a member of Shulkin's detail complained that he was asked to go with the secretary to a Home Depot and help him carry furniture.

Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price

PHOTO: Former U.S. Heath and Human Services Secretary Tom Price participated in an event to promote the flu vaccine at the National Press Club Sept. 28, 2017 in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Former U.S. Heath and Human Services Secretary Tom Price participated in an event to promote the flu vaccine at the National Press Club Sept. 28, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Former HHS Secretary Tom Price was fired in September after reports that he often flew in private jets paid for by taxpayer dollars and that he mixed government work with personal business.

Price took military planes to Africa and Europe where he was accompanied by his wife. The estimated cost of all his travel on private and military planes was near $1 million from May to September, according to Politico.

He expressed regret shortly after he resigned and said he would reimburse the government for the cost of his travel on the 26 private flights. House Democrats confirmed last week that Price has repaid the federal government $60,000 for his use of private jets as secretary.

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  • Thomas

    If you are a cabinet secretary and you have to attend a meeting, you should be able to schedule the meeting at a better time. You are the cabinet secretary after all. Unless you are meeting with the president, you pretty much outrank everyone else.

    "Hi, this is Secretary Jones, I can't make the 9:00am meeting, let's move it to 10:00am". Done.

    This happens at my company all the time and we don't deal with cabinet secretaries. Our upper management reschedules meetings all the time when the time is inconvenient for them.

    If a cabinet secretary can't catch a commercial flight to make a meeting, change the time of the meeting to one where the secretary can catch a commercial flight. Is it really that difficult?

    I guess it is if you are an entitled cabinet member.

  • Bernard Sandan

    Drain the Swamp !

  • Bernard Sandan

    These secretaries thinks, they are special, they are rich, wrong ! When you took your oath you could have read it and understand it very very well. You work for the government, when you make trips check with GAO first, what'a allowed and what's not. Don't be over carried away with your position ion the government, know the do's and don'ts very well.

  • Realpshep

    At least he didn't buy a solid gold statue of Dig em Smacks like Mayor Adam West

  • briteleaf

    All of the private jets and expensive furniture are paid for by WORKING PEON TAXPAYERS. The same taxpayers who got a TEMPORARY tax cut for about 2% while the WEALTHY AND CORPORATIONS got a PERMANENT 14% tax cut. None of these expenses hold a candle to a single trip of Trumpty Dumbty to Mira Lago in Florida. He's already made dozens of weekend trips there for the sunshine and golf, ALL AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE.

  • Norberto Duenas

    If the Orange Covfefe can do it, why can't we. MAGA.

  • Traveler1

    The billionaires clubs has no clue how the real folk live and work. How many struggle day to day just to get by. Not because they're lazy, unskilled or dumb, but because for the last 30+ years the rich have gotten richer by stalling wages, cutting benefits and firing workers.

    "Our" Sec. of Education can't be bothered to visit an under performing school. Is she afraid of catching something? Our Sec. of Housing wanted to provide a home for a $31,000 table and chair set. Private plane transportation at taxpayer expense is par for the course. Yet, each of these individual could afford the cost they incurred for us without putting a dent in their available cash!

    We have a master showman at the helm. All distraction and misdirection. Me thinks the tent is about to collapse!

  • OliverWendellSr

    "Outraged, I tell you!
    Harrumph!
    When do we leave for
    Mar-a-Emoluments?"

  • My Dimesworth

    This is what an oligarchy looks like.

  • kritikosman

    The best people?

  • Jackie

    Clueless. They are totally clueless. They are a bunch of privileged elitist without a clue what "public service" and "government employment" means.

    The whole lot and their leader should be FIRED!

  • Kajsa Williams

    These people think that they are different and above the norm. It's similar to the concept of "royalty". They actually think they deserve all these luxuries.

    As long as the working class buys this creepy philosophy, this trend will continue. Trump supporters think that if they cozy up to the people who've ripped off the general community they must be "special-from-birth" too. What a repulsive scam by Trump-type people. But the working class buys right into it. Both groups of people involved in this fallacy are scum.

  • Erwin Schrodinger

    Gotta laugh at the Trumpsters that still think he and his cabinet of rich, old (mostly white) men are looking out for them. What a bunch of self-serving brats milking the government coffers.

  • Jack25

    21Trillion dollars, the largest deficit ever under Trump and the GOP. I want all you so called conservatives to explain how that is winning.

  • kritikosman

    They all want a piece of the action.

  • virgillionhere

    Hey Trumpkins, how is your hero doing in draining the Swamp?????

  • Realpshep

    Shut down all Congressional Welfare. They can afford to pay their own way. They wanna cut everything except the perks that they get. Booo them

  • Cavalls

    Thankfully, nobody bothered to dig into the expenditures of the last president's cabinet. There might have been some dirt to dig up and nobody wanted to see that!

  • Krimson

    Greed Over People

  • Jon C. Hall

    Are these spending limits for Trump too or just everyone else? Think he needs to reimbuse the expenses of all the golf trips to Trump owned properties.

  • Prophet With Honor

    When my former boss got a high level appointment in DC he wanted to redecorate his office. He ended up paying about a third of the cost himself because of limited funds. It was the right move.

  • Lauralie89

    That’s how our government has been, not working for the people but we’re working so they can live very comfortably in the lap of luxury.

  • sammy r@tional

    I guess Trump's version of 'small government' is a government that does not get questioned at all, and if it does, it is career staffer's fault, because, well, there is no one to challenge them...

  • P-dizzle

    Drips, drip, drip. The fleecing of the American taxpayer continues. This administration seems to have no ethics.

  • JerseyJeff78

    Welcome to the real swamp, America...

    Trump is bringing back corruption, nepotism, misappropriation of government funds, conflicts of interest and pay to play like it’s the 19th Century.

  • poultrygeist

    The farce is strong with this administration.

  • Pro-Marx

    When Carson was told he would be a new member of Trump's cabinet, he thought that meant he could get a new cabinet, but his wife talked him into getting a dining table.

  • Pologize3

    And Donald goes to Florida every weekend. How much does that cost us? SMH. Worst administration ever.