The controversy over Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin is reaching fever pitch, and now a Republican congressman is calling for him to be fired. On Wednesday, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) sent a letter to President Trump in which he outlined the reasons for his call for Shulkin’s resignation.
Coffman started by citing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report: “Administrative Investigation, VA Secretary and Delegation Travel to Europe.” The report found that Shulkin intentionally lied to government ethics officials and then lied to investigators to cover up his misuse of government funds when he accepted complimentary tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match and about his July 2017 eleven-day trip to Europe, which “included significant personal time for sightseeing and other unofficial activities.”
Here is the chronology of events:
On June 29, 2017, Shulkin sent a memo to all VA employees demanding that all VA travel be “essential,” to save money. He also stated that travel requests should “clearly document and retain the rationale for their decisions in the event travel requests are subsequently called into question.”
Yet, as Coffman wrote:
The OIG could not “determine whether the value of the trip to the VA, including the value provided by each participant in the trip, was consistent with the Secretary’s memorandum.” The OIG also determined that “inadequate documentation makes it impossible for the OIG to determine precisely which costs, if any, should have been borne by the traveler rather than the government.”
The OIG reported that the trip “cost the VA at least $122,334.00.” It also reported that Shulkin accepted complimentary tickets to a Wimbledon tennis match from a woman named Victoria Gosling, but later said she was a friend of his wife, which the report stated was to mislead the investigators into believing that the tickets qualified for the “personal friendship” exception to the rule prohibiting the acceptance of gifts. But the OIG report pointed out it found no evidence of that fact, and that the lead investigator on the examination “concluded the totality of the documents totally indicate that they’re not friends, as represented in Secretary Shulkin’s response …”
As The Daily Caller reported, Shulkin insinuated to Congress that an email sent by chief of staff Vivica Simpson that stated the government would pay for Shulkin’s wife to go on a trip to Europe was actually a false email and Simpson had been hacked and someone had stolen her identity. But as The Daily Caller notes, “The only evidence of that, it turns out, consisted of an email from a comcast.net address sent hours before he made the assertion. Shulkin implied there was a longstanding pattern of someone convincingly impersonating’s work email.”
After insisting to Congress that Simpson had been hacked, Shulkin later confessed to The Daily Caller News Foundation that the only evidence of impersonation was an email on the same day the IG report was released.
On Wednesday, rumors flew that John Ullyot, the Veterans Affairs department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, had queried a senior aide on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs to convince legislators to urge Trump to fire Shulkin; Ullyot denied the report to The Hill, saying, “That simply never happened, and the allegation is ridiculous. … The purpose of the call was to protect the secretary, the department and members of the committee from continuing to give credence to allegations that may later be disproven, as they were in fact yesterday by the inspector general,”
Shulkin was appointed by President Barack Obama to the post of Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Health in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in 2015.