Donald Trump Takes to Twitter, Calls for Cancelling Boeing's Deal for Air Force One

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Air Force One sits ready for boarding on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Washington, D.C., on December 6, the same morning that President-elect Donald Trump urged the government to cancel its purchase of Boeing’s new Air Force One plane. He said the price is too expensive. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Updated | President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to try and negotiate with Boeing over the price of the next Air Force One, using his favorite mode of communication—Twitter. Citing its expensive cost, which he put at "more than $4 billion," Trump said he wants the United States to cancel its order for the upcoming presidential aircraft, which eventually will replace the current, but outdated, fleet.

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Boeing airplanes have served U.S. presidents for more than half a century. The blue and white aircraft currently used by President Barack Obama is an older Boeing model of its 747 aircraft. The U.S. Air Force, which operates the presidential planes, announced its plan in January 2015 to replace the president's current fleet of two aircraft with Boeing's 747-8, citing needed upgrades because of obsolete parts and increased maintenance times.

Boeing in a statement Tuesday seemed to dispute Trump's figures, saying—without mentioning the tweet—that the company is currently under contract for the Air Force One replacement program for only $170 million. "We look forward to working with the U.S. Air Force on subsequent phases of the program allowing us to deliver the best planes for the president at the best value for the American taxpayer," said spokesman Todd Blecher.

The budgeted costs for the initial stage of the replacement program are $2.7 billion in the coming year for research and development, Reuters reported. Press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that contracting arrangement for replacements of Air Force One are "rather complicated," according to the wire service.

The investigative arm of Congress, called the Government Accountability Office, in a March report had estimated the cost of the overall program at $3.21 billion, including the purchase of two aircraft, Reuters reported. But the GAO estimated the costs for research and development would be low, just under $2 billion. If the GAO report used the same estimate as the Air Force for research and development, its projected cost would be around $4 billion—the amount Trump included in his tweet.

Later Tuesday morning in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, the president-elect briefly responded to reporters' questions about his tweet regarding the U.S. manufacturer. "The plan is totally out of control. It's going to be over $4 billion," Trump said, according to CNN video footage. "I think it's ridiculous. I think Boeing is doing a little bit of a number. We want Boeing to make a lot of money, but not that much money."

Just three years ago, Trump tweeted that he bought stock in the "great" aircraft manufacturing company—Boeing—though Jason Miller, communications director for the transition team, on Tuesday told reporters that the real estate mogul "sold all of his stock back in June."

Trump often uses Twitter to address the public and share his opinions, sometimes in the early hours of the day. But the connection between what he tweets and what he actually winds up doing is unclear. On a daily press call with Trump aides, reporters on Tuesday asked the president-elect's transition team about the tweet. "When you look at the cost of the two new Air Force Ones, plus the research and development and the overall program cost, it's a pretty big number," Miller said. "This really speaks to the president-elect's focus on keeping costs down across the board with regard to government spending."

He added: "The point the president-elect was making here was that a $4 billion price tag is a very big number. Taxpayers want to make sure we're seeing absolute accountability, that the government is doing the best to drive costs down," Miller said, adding that the transition team will look for areas where they can keep down costs and also save money. The team, he said, will announce specifics after Trump is sworn in as president next month.

In the wake of Trump's comments, Boeing shares briefly fell about 1 percent on Tuesday morning, but have since rebounded.

Lucy Westcott contributed reporting to this article.

This story has been updated to include figures by the Government Accountability Office, as reported by Reuters.

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Donald Trump Takes to Twitter, Calls for Cancelling Boeing's Deal for Air Force One | U.S.