The White House and former Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinFormer VA secretaries propose National Warrior Call Day to raise military suicide awareness Biden's nominee for VA secretary isn't a veteran — does it matter? The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Congress slogs toward COVID-19 relief, omnibus deal 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 TillersonHillicon Valley — Blinken unveils new cyber bureau at State Blinken formally announces new State Department cyber bureau Hillicon Valley — TikTok, Snapchat seek to distance themselves from Facebook MORE and the resignation of White House communications director Hope HicksHope HicksWhite House orders release of Trump records to Jan. 6 committee Grisham calls Kushner 'Rasputin in a slim-fitting suit' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US prepares vaccine booster plan 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 TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't 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.”