Trump VA chief went sightseeing, shopping with wife on government trip: report
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin spent nearly half his time on a recent international trip sightseeing and shopping with his wife, according to The Washington Post.
Shulkin traveled to Europe in July to attend a conference in London with representatives of several countries on veterans’ health issues, as well as a series of meetings in Denmark.
The VA chief’s traveling party included his acting undersecretary of health and her husband, his chief of staff, another aide and a security detail, according to the Post.
Shulkin’s wife, who also accompanied him on the trip, had her airfare paid for the by the government because she was traveling on “approved invitational orders,” a VA spokesperson told the Post. Shulkin’s wife also received a per diem for her meals.
The newspaper reports Shulkin attended a Wimbledon tennis tournament match and visited multiple palaces in both London and Denmark. Shulkin also reportedly took a cruise on the River Thames in London during the trip.
Shulkin took commercial flights for the trip and sat in coach on at least one flight, according to the Post.
VA press secretary Curt Cashour told the Post that the entire itinerary for Shulkin’s trip was “reviewed and approved by ethics counsel.”
“These were important trips with our allies to discuss best practices for taking care of veterans,” Cashour told the Post. “The secretary has been transparent on his downtime activities that were similar to what he would have done with his family over a weekend in the U.S.”
In a statement Friday, the VA said it would begin making public a list of Shulkin’s official travel, including trip itineraries and his use of private and government aircraft.
“Veterans and taxpayers have a right to know about my official travel as Secretary, and posting this information online for all to see will do just that,” Shulkin, a holdover from the Obama administration who President Trump tapped for the top VA spot this year, said in the statement.
Other Trump administration officials have come under fire for their travel while in office.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has reportedly racked up over $1 million in travel costs with his use of private and military planes since May. Price said Thursday he would reimburse taxpayers just under $52,000 for charter jet travels he’s used for government business.
President Trump said Wednesday he was “not happy” with Price’s use of private planes and said “we’ll see” when asked if he planned to fire Price.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt have also come under scrutiny for their use of private aircraft for government business in recent days.