White House and Shulkin at odds over whether he resigned

The White House and former Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinVeterans group sues to block advisers known as ‘Mar-a-Lago Crowd’ from influencing VA Mar-a-Lago insiders provided input on VA policy, personnel decisions: report Ahead of speech, Kansas City newspaper urges Trump to listen to veterans 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 TillersonPompeo working to rebuild ties with US diplomats: report NYT says it was unfair on Haley curtain story Rubio defends Haley over curtains story: Example of media pushing bias MORE and the resignation of White House communications director Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksWhite House aides tried to get Trump to fact-check his tweets: Woodward book Omarosa: Trump hired Hope Hicks because she is pretty Trump officials pushing Hope Hicks to join 2020 campaign: report MORE

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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 TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' 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.”