White House and Shulkin at odds over whether he resigned

The White House and former Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinOvernight Defense: Trump orders Pentagon to help house immigrant families | Mattis says 'space force' needs legislation | VA pick gets hearing date Senate panel schedules hearing on Trump VA pick Press: Drain the swamp – of Scott Pruitt MORE are at odds over the narrative of his departure.

Shulkin on Sunday pushed back against the White House's claim that he resigned, telling CNN's Jake Tapper that he was "committed to making sure this job was seen through to the very end.”

But a West Wing spokesperson maintains that the former Cabinet secretary stepped down from his post.

Shulkin’s departure came amid a round of staff and Cabinet shake-ups within the Trump administration, including the ousting of Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump cannot blame policy of separating children on Obama North Korea looked to set up communications back channel through Kushner: report North America wins 2026 bid to host World Cup after lobbying from Trump MORE and the resignation of White House communications director Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksThe Memo: Trump’s media game puts press on back foot White House looking for candidates at conservative job fair: report CBS: Sanders may leave White House at end of year MORE


Shulkin made the rounds on the Sunday show circuit this week following his exit and took the chance to speak out against privatizing the VA. A holdover from the Obama administration, Shulkin was a staunch opponent of privatization during his tenure at the agency.

“I came to run the Department of Veterans Affairs because I’m committed to veterans,” Shulkin told CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked if he was fired or resigned from the post.

Pressed by Tapper as to whether or not he was fired, Shulkin said: “I did not resign."

His comments contradict a statement from White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters published by Politico on Saturday.

"Secretary Shulkin resigned from his position as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs," the statement said.

The Hill emailed the White House on Sunday to clarify the apparent discrepancy. The spokesperson said the statement from Walters regarding Shulkin “still stands.” 

During his interview with CNN, Shulkin made clear that he “never had any issues” with the president. 

“The president is committed to improving the care for veterans,” Shulkin said.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN analyst Kirsten Powers: Melania's jacket should read 'Let them eat cake' CNN's Cuomo confronts Lewandowski over 'womp womp' remark Sessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance MORE announced in a tweet last week that he was replacing Shulkin, while also thanking him for his service to the U.S. and its veterans.

“I am pleased to announce that I intend to nominate highly respected Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, MD, as the new Secretary of Veterans Affairs,” Trump tweeted.

The exit capped off an embattled last few months of Shulkin’s tenure, which included an inspector general report that found the secretary took a trip to Europe billed as official travel but included sightseeing activities and cost more than $122,000 dollars. 

The report also said that Shulkin’s former chief of staff, who resigned after the inspector general released the assessment, edited an email in an effort to grant Shulkin’s wife approval from agency ethics officials to join him on the trip.

Shulkin told USA Today following the report that he sent the government a check for his wife’s airfare and would reimburse the person who provided him with tickets to the Wimbledon tennis match. The inspector general report said Shulkin “improperly” received the tickets.

But Shulkin came under heavy criticism over the report, with one Republican lawmaker on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee calling on him to resign.

Following his departure, Shulkin wrote an op-ed published in The New York Times in which he slammed any push to privative the agency and said the environment in Washington, D.C., made it “impossible” for him to do his job.

“I have been falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way,” Shulkin wrote.

“But despite these politically based attacks on me and my family’s character, I am proud of my record and know that I acted with the utmost integrity. Unfortunately, none of that mattered.”