Top aide to VA secretary lobbied Congress to get him fired: report

Top aide to VA secretary lobbied Congress to get him fired: report
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A top aide to Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinWatchdog clears Perry’s use of non-commercial flights, but advises policy change Trump admin gets lowest-ever ethics ratings in Gallup poll Senate panel heading toward June hearing for Trump's next VA pick MORE has worked to lobby Congress to get Shulkin fired, according to a new report.

John Ullyot, who serves as the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, recently asked a senior aide on the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs to convince lawmakers they should tell the White House they wanted Shulkin removed from his position, USA Today reported Wednesday.

Two sources told the newspaper that Ullyot made the request on Feb. 15, one day after the VA inspector general released a report that found Shulkin’s chief of staff doctored an email in an effort to cover up travel expenses racked up by Shulkin’s wife.

Ullyot reportedly made the request on a phone call with the aide that was begun by press secretary Curt Cashour, who criticized Shulkin's explanation for the email, saying it would reflect poorly on the agency. After the inspector general's report was released, Shulkin said the doctored emails could have been the result of his chief of staff’s email being hacked.

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Ullyot then reportedly joined the call and asked the aide for help in ousting Shulkin, according to USA Today. He told the House aide that pressure from lawmakers on the committee would ensure President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump appears to confirm deal on Chinese firm ZTE Judge rejects Manafort's attempt to throw out some charges Dem: Trump’s policy of separating children, parents at border ‘would shock Jesus’ MORE would fire Shulkin, USA Today reports.

In a statement to The Hill, Cashour and Ullyot denied the report.

“That simply never happened, and the allegation is ridiculous,” they said. “We both spoke on the call in question with the staff director of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to inform him that we had no evidence of email hacking, contrary to media reports and claims from a member of the committee.”

“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,” the statement continued.

The report found that Shulkin's chief of staff, Viveca Wright Simpson, made changes to an official email to get approval for taxpayer funding for Shulkin's wife's flights costing more than $4,000.

The report also said Shulkin misused government resources by accepting Wimbledon tickets and airfare for his wife when he took a trip to Europe over the summer.

Shulkin later said he had reimbursed the federal government for his wife’s travel expenses, but has denied any involvement with Wright Simpson’s actions.

At least one lawmaker, Rep. Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanKoch-backed group to target some Republicans over spending vote in new ad campaign Overnight Defense: Doubts grow over Trump, Kim summit | Lawmakers want floor debate on war measure | New cell phone policy at Pentagon Lawmakers push for House floor debate on war authorization MORE (R-Colo.), has called for Shulkin’s resignation after the release of the report.

Others, including the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs committees, have said Shulkin needs to “fully address” the inspector general’s findings.