- Trump tasked three Mar-a-Lago associates to sort out the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2017.
- The trio tried to get the VA to sell the patient data of 9 million vets for profit, new emails show.
- The House Oversight and Veterans committees said Monday that the men had broken the law.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Three associates of former President Donald Trump worked to persuade the Department of Veterans Affairs to sell veterans medical records for profit, according to emails released Monday by US lawmakers.
On January 11, 2017, Trump said he had assembled a team to “straighten out the VA” because “our veterans have been treated horribly.” More than 9 million veterans get medical care from the department at more than 1,000 facilities, according to ProPublica.
The team, who were based at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, was comprised of Ike Perlmutter, a major Trump donor, Mar-a-Lago member, and a Marvel executive; Marc Sherman, a Washington, DC, lawyer; and Dr. Bruce Moskowitz, a West Palm Beach physician, per ProPublica.
The trio started advising the VA on budgeting and contracting issues, ProPublica reported, but they soon began to advance the idea of selling veterans’ medical data.
“Patient data is, in my opinion, the most valuable assets the VA has,” Terry Fadem, a consultant who ran a private nonprofit created by Moskowitz, said in a June 2017 email released Monday by the House Oversight Committee and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
“It can be leveraged into hundreds of millions in revenue.”
Moskowitz then told David Shulkin, then-secretary of the VA, that talks had taken place with Johnson & Johnson, CVS, and Apple about a potential deal. Shulkin was open to the plan, the emails showed.
The documents do not show whether the VA ever signed a deal to sell veterans’ medical data. The Department of Veterans Affairs did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Perlmutter said in a March 31, 2017, email that he had been introduced to Apple CEO Tim Cook and J&J CEO Alex Gorsky by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.
The emails also suggest that President Trump was more than happy to let the trio get on with the task of sorting out the VA.
Following a February 2017 meeting between Trump and Perlmutter, Perlmutter wrote in an email to Moskowitz, Shulkin, and medical industry leaders: “As the President asked we can now formally create an official committee [to transform the VA],” per the Monday release.
The emails do not show whether Trump was aware of the specific plan to sell veterans patient data, but his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said in a March 2017 email that the president was “excited” to meet Perlmutter to discuss their plan for the VA.
The House Oversight Committee and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs began an investigation into the trio’s conduct in February 2020, and said in their final report released Monday that they had broken the law.
“The Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) requires that groups advising the executive branch operate with transparency and a balanced approach,” the committees said.
“The Mar-a-Lago Trio refused to comply with this law and, with the knowledge of Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump (using a personal email account), and other top White House advisors, hid their efforts to influence VA policies from public view.”
The trio “bolstered by their connection to President Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club violated the law and sought to exert improper influence over government officials to further their own personal interests,” the committees said.
In a statement to ProPublica, Perlmutter, Sherman, and Moskowitz said: “We were asked repeatedly by former Secretary Shulkin and his senior staff, as well as by the President, to assist the VA and that is what we sought to do, period.”