Mar-a-Lago trio reviewed confidential $10 billion VA contract before its release: report

Three Mar-a-Lago club members friendly with President TrumpDonald John TrumpProsecutors investigating Trump inaugural fund, pro-Trump super PAC for possible illegal foreign donations: NY Times George Conway: Why take Trump's word over prosecutors' if he 'lies about virtually everything' Federal judge says lawsuit over Trump travel ban waivers will proceed MORE were reportedly given access to review a $10 billion government contract to overhaul electronic health records for veterans even though they had no prior experience in the field.

The three men, Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, West Palm Beach physician Bruce Moskowitz and lawyer Marc Sherman, were given unprecedented access to confidential documents and shaped policy at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), according to emails obtained by ProPublica through a Freedom of Information Act request.

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The trio had no health information technology or federal contracting experience but were listed among more than 40 experts reviewing the government contract, including hospital executives and university health system administrators.

Records obtained by ProPublica show the men editing the budget and being placed on an “executive committee.”

Emails also show Moskowitz negotiating to get the VA and Apple to use a cellphone application he developed.

The findings from ProPublica come months after the publication discovered the Mar-a-Lago trio were shaping policy at the VA. The men reportedly spoke with VA officials daily and inquired about new programs, including the deal with Apple.

A liberal veterans group filed a lawsuit in federal court in August attempting to block the men from shaping policy at the VA.

All three men declined to comment to ProPublica, as did the White House.

The VA has been fraught with turnover over the past year following Trump’s firing of former Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinEmails show top VA diversity official was told not to condemn Charlottesville violence  Mar-a-Lago trio reviewed confidential billion VA contract before its release: report Veterans have been deprived of their earned benefits for two decades MORE in March. New VA Secretary Robert Wilkie was confirmed by the Senate in July.

Wilkie has distanced himself from the Mar-a-Lago trio, according to ProPublica. His spokesman appeared to blame Wilkie's predecessors for the access given to the three businessmen. 

“Although his predecessors may have done things differently, Sec. Wilkie has been clear about how he does business,” Cashour said in a statement to ProPublica. “No one from outside the administration dictates VA policies or decisions — that’s up to Sec. Wilkie and President Trump. Period.”