- Former secretary of veterans affairs David Shulkin said Sunday that he did not resign, as the White House is now insisting.
- He attributed differences in policy and “subversive” tactics by President Donald Trump’s appointees for his departure.
- Shulkin’s tenure was rocked by a number of scandals before his ouster last Wednesday.
After leaving his post at the Department of Veterans Affairs on Wednesday, former VA secretary David Shulkin confirmed on Sunday that he was fired.
Shulkin told CNN host Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that he would not have left the department voluntarily.
“I came to run the Department of Veterans Affairs because I’m committed to veterans, and I’m committed to fighting for them, and I would not resign, because I’m committed to making sure this job was seen through to the very end,” he said.
After Tapper asked again if he was fired, Shulkin said, “I did not resign.”
Contradicting this narrative, White House spokeswoman Lindsey Walters told Politico and the Associated Press that “Secretary Shulkin resigned from his position as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
Shulkin told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “there would be no reason for me to resign.”
He said he spoke to Trump on the phone hours before the president tweeted, and the two were supposed to meet Thursday morning. Then chief of staff John Kelly called Shulkin shortly before Trump tweeted the news, which he said was “somewhat of a surprise.”
Policy differences, privatizing the VA
When asked about the reasons for his dismissal, Shulkin mentioned policy differences between himself and Trump-appointed staff.
“The president is committed to improving the care for veterans,” he told Tapper. “These appointees had a belief that there was a different way to do it than I was approaching it.”
Shulkin said he has no issues with differences in opinion at the department, but was bothered by Trump appointees allegedly using “subversive” tactics to get their way and pressuring leadership when they felt their policy goals were not being met quickly enough.
The day of his ouster, Shulkin authored an op-ed in The New York Times in which he lamented his departure from the department, and outlined the great progress the VA had made under his leadership to improve care and regain veterans’ trust.
But, he said, “It seems that these successes within the department have intensified the ambitions of people who want to put VA healthcare in the hands of the private sector.” Shulkin added: “It shouldn’t be this hard to serve your country.”
Privatization is one of the key issues Shulkin told Tapper that he and other members of the VA had disagreed on.
But according to the White House, privatization isn’t at all under consideration.
“No one is talking about privatizing the VA,” deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters told Politico in an email, contradicting Shulkin and many veterans’ groups who said they were concerned about his departure.
A former Obama administration official, Shulkin had years of experience in the VA and was the only Cabinet member unanimously confirmed by Congress.
Despite his strong start, the end of his tenure was racked by a number of scandals.
An inspector general investigation in February showed that he used $US122,000 of taxpayer money on a trip to Europe with his wife and that he improperly accepted tickets to the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
The Washington Post also reported that Shulkin had argued with White House aides in an attempt to get his wife to meet Britain’s Prince Harry during his trip to the Invictus Games in Canada last September, though Shulkin denied that allegation.
Despite concerns about Jackson’s qualifications for leading the VA, Shulkin said only Congress can make the final decision.
“The Senate has to make up their own mind and it’s important to follow the process, which is a proper vetting,” he told Tapper.
Watch Shulkin’s full interviews below:
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