David Shulkin, the ousted secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, said Thursday that the White House didn’t allow him to respond to allegations that he misused taxpayer dollars, but that he actually had responded three times.
Shulkin improperly used government money to bankroll a trip to Europe for him and his wife and also improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets, according to the VA’s inspector general. The report was one of the likely reasons President Donald Trump announced Shulkin’s firing Wednesday.
Shulkin said the White House did not let him respond to the inspector general’s report.
“This was completely mischaracterized,” Shulkin told National Public Radio. “There was nothing improper about this trip, and I was not allowed to put up an official statement or to even respond to this by the White House. I think this was really just being used in a political context to try to make sure that I wasn’t as effective as a leader moving forward.”
But the inspector general’s report issued in February contains three responses from Shulkin: two from lawyers representing him and one from the then-secretary himself.
The report “does not appear accurate or objective, and it contains the thread of bias,” Shulkin wrote to Inspector General Michael Missal. “A report of this nature is a direct assault on my spouse, my character and my unblemished record of service to the Veterans Affairs Administration.”
“The current draft report … ignores critical facts, improperly applies the relevant regulations and draws conclusions based on subjective and arbitrary criteria,” Shulkin continued, adding that he conducted official business on the trip.
Nearly half of the 10-day trip was spent vacationing, according to the inspector general’s report.
Another report Monday from the inspector general shows that a VA subagency Shulkin previously ran didn’t conduct background checks on thousands of medical personnel and didn’t review more than 10,000 completed investigations within the required 90 days.
Shulkin said the February report was leaked to the media before he “had an opportunity to respond.” But the initial USA Today report based on the leaked information, however, included Shulkin’s response to the inspector general.
The report contained statements from lawyers representing Shulkin, including a 16-page letter from MoloLamken lawyer Justin V. Shur.
“The draft report cannot be published in its current form,” Shur wrote to Missal. “It ignores critical facts, presenting a one-sided version of events that casts aside evidence contradicting your chosen narrative.”
Shur provided arguments that the European trip was “immensely valuable to the VA,” that Shulkin “did not improperly accept Wimbledon tickets,” and that ethics officials approved Shulkin’s wife’s travel.
Shulkin’s chief of staff allegedly made false representations to a VA ethics official, according to the inspector general.
“[U]nder applicable ethics regulations, Secretary Shulkin’s acceptance of Wimbledon tickets was proper,” Miller & Chevalier lawyer Andrew D. Herman said in his statement to the watchdog.
The inspector general, he said, “does not establish that Secretary Shulkin received an improper gift.”
The inspector general report also included a statement from Victoria Gosling—who gave Shulkin the Wimbledon tickets and defended the then-secretary—as well as a response from Deputy Secretary Thomas Bowman.
The VA did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment in time for publication.
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