Kelly warned VA chief to get his act together: report
Chief of staff John Kelly summoned Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin to the White House last week and told him to stop creating drama in his agency, Axios reported Sunday.
Shulkin, who has been telling the media that Trump political appointees in the Department of Veterans Affairs are trying to undermine him, was reportedly told by Kelly to stop fighting with staff and talking with the media.
Kelly did tell Shulkin that he would help him with the issues he was having with staffers at the VA, according to Axios.
However, Kelly was reportedly blindsided when Shulkin later spoke with The New York Times about the issues within the VA.
Shulkin told the newspaper that Kelly and President Trump supported the secretary removing staffers who didn’t back him. The chief of staff was reportedly infuriated by that quote and saw it as an attempt to take advantage of the meeting.
“The meeting with the President and VA Chief of Staff was productive, supportive and focused solely on moving forward in the best interest of our Veterans,” Shulkin said in a statement provided to Axios.
Shulkin has been struggling with political appointees at his department, some of whom allegedly oppose his policies and are seeking his ouster. He reportedly canceled all meetings with the staffers, hasn’t spoken with his public affairs chief in weeks and has an armed guard at his door, according to The Washington Post.
Politico also reported last month that Shulkin had the backing of the administration to root out “subversion” at his agency.
The recent reports also come as Shulkin faces scrutiny over allegations that he improperly used taxpayer dollars. An inspector general report found that Shulkin spent most of a taxpayer-funded trip to Europe sightseeing, misused government resources by having the VA cover the cost of his wife’s airfare and improperly accepted tickets to Wimbledon.