By Justin Sink
President Obama will meet with embattled Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki Friday morning for a “serious conversation” about his ability to lead the department.
The president said he would discuss whether Shinseki “has the capacity” to “take on the job of fixing” problems within the department during an interview taped Thursday with morning talk show hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan.
Shinseki is also expected to present the preliminary results of an internal review of the VA at the Oval Office meeting, which is closed to the press.
Speaking earlier Friday at an event for homeless veterans, Shinseki apologized for mismanagement within his department.
He said he would remove senior leaders at a Phoenix-area medical facility where veterans were kept from booking a primary care appointment an average of 115 days, and he said bonuses would not be given to senior leaders in the department this year.
Shinseki also endorsed a Senate bill that would give him greater authority to fire top officials within his department.
But the question is whether Shinseki himself will survive the day. More than 100 members of Congress, including nearly a dozen Senate Democrats, have called for his ouster.
And on Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney pointedly refused to say Shinseki retained the president’s confidence.
Instead, Carney said Obama was seeking “accountability” after an initial inspector general report found systematic mismanagement of VA facilities.
“When it comes to the current situation, the inquiries and the investigations and some of the allegations, the president wants to see the results of these reports,” Carney said. “And he, as you know, made clear that he believes there ought to be accountability once we establish all the facts.”
Obama "will be very interested in the results," Carney added.
In comments last week, Obama suggested Shinseki was on probation awaiting the results of the inspector general and VA reports — a sentiment White House aides have reinforced in recent days.
“I have said to Ric — and I said it to him today — I want to see what the results of these reports are and there is going to be accountability,” Obama said.